The Verdict: BMO scores with virtual kickers

The FI's interactive media execution at First Canadian Place in Toronto brings 20,000 sidewalk soccer stars into its youth-soccer campaign.

It became a common, always-hilarious sight on the north sidewalk of King Street at Bay in Toronto: a pedestrian flailing around wildly, seemingly without reason, in front of the window of BMO’s main branch.

Upon closer inspection, though, the behaviour became clear – rather than dancing to an invisible beat (not uncommon in the urban core) the pedestrian was playing BMO’s Virtual Goaltender soccer game.

Embedded in the window of the building, the media execution (with creative by Cossette and media design by Monster Media) featured a video screen of a child kicking a soccer ball toward the sidewalk. The pedestrian’s job was to ‘block’ the goal by jumping to the left or right and using their hands or body to ‘catch’ the ball. The highly physical nature of the interactivity lent itself to amusing antics; when viewed from the side, the screen was invisible, making the player appear to be interacting with simply a wall.

The centrepiece of a national mass-media campaign promoting the brand’s support of youth soccer, the installation delivered far more than the brand initially expected, Sandy Bourne, VP, advertising, sponsorship, events and merchandising, BMO Financial Group, tells MiC.

‘It surpassed our expectations in terms of the number of people we thought would stop and interact with the game,’ she says. ‘We over delivered by 50% and … we were planning on about 1,000 people every week stopping by and playing the game. And we ended up having over 6,000 stop by on a monthly basis.’

Following the installation’s over three-month run (it launched July 9), a total of almost 20,000 interacted with the display, Bourne confirms.

Given that interactive displays such as Virtual Goaltender are still new, the initial launch period did require a little tweak, Bourne explains, after it was noticed that unless someone was playing the game, passersby tended not to notice it. A fix was made in the form of a sidewalk decal that called attention to it, and it immediately produced a 20% boost in participation. ‘That was a good example of observing how this works and also how learning from what we saw,’ Bourne notes.

Although a full wrap report on the youth soccer campaign is not yet available, Bourne says that consumer awareness of BMO’s OOH advertising and youth-soccer support is growing and a fair amount of earned media was generated via World Cup and the associated boost in soccer coverage this summer. As for the Virtual Goaltender, it has been retired for the season and replaced with a static display, due mainly to concerns about how it would weather a Canadian winter, Bourne says. But BMO plans to do another interactive installation next summer, following the success of this year’s campaign.

‘I think what was really great about it was that we saw parents and kids out there interacting with the game, and it really created a wonderful experience for our clients and customers, as well as everyone else in the area,’ she concludes.

Read MiC’s original story on the BMO Virtual Goaltender here.