Eurovision ‘21: Showing up Across Cultures With Smart Design
Eurovision is the world’s largest musical event, a show infused with a cultural relevance like no other. Organized annually by the European Broadcasting Union, the song contest features participants from all over the region, as well as some non-European countries like Israel and Australia. But in 2020, the show was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic—and when the time came to get back on stage in 2021, we helped it shine like never before.
With a 200-million plus audience, Eurovision 2021 will go down in the history books as the largest in-person entertainment event in Europe since the start of the pandemic. Italy’s win was a deeply emotional one, capturing the overarching feeling of hope and celebration that a new start signifies. An Italian journalist said it best, “After all that happened with [the coronavirus], we had such a bad year in Bergamo. This is a new beginning.” On that note, the Eurovision team commented, “A few months ago we weren’t sure this was going to happen, but here we are. What a night, what a fortnight, what a YEAR.”
But before the most exciting musical event could take place, we were there to get the show on the road. Inspired by the new Eurovision logo designed by CLEVER°FRANKE, we partnered with Dutch host-broadcaster NEP to refresh its motion GFX system and build a dynamic brand that reflected the wide-ranging cultural identities the contest showcases. The goal? To create something colorful and fresh that served as a much-needed boost after a tough 2020.
Building Brand Identity With Versatility
Each year, Eurovision attracts millions of viewers with its enthusiastic nature and extravagant production. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television, with viewers casting votes on their favorites to determine a winner. Given the broad audience and the diverse array of talent featured, an equally diverse strategy to engage viewers was needed.
It’s important to evoke an emotional connection with each detail, from something small like an app icon to a huge billboard in Rotterdam.
“Our challenge was to create a new, refreshed, colorful experience,” says Frank Gouwy, Lead Designer. “A design system that went beyond the logo and brought the vibrancy of the show to all platforms, tying the onscreen and digital experience all together.” In addition to the most basic deliverables any branding campaign would demand, an event like Eurovision required animated motion graphics that kept millions of viewers informed throughout the night—such as bumpers, title cards, wipes, split-screens and scoreboards.
From (D)OOH to social media and everything in between, versatility was key—and each element was equally important in translating the Eurovision feeling to something concrete. “For a project like this, you have to think beyond the usual set of touchpoints,” explains Design Director Jonny Singh, who recently sat down with Campaign to dive into the making of Eurovision 2021. “It’s important to evoke an emotional connection with each detail, from something small like an app icon to a huge billboard in Rotterdam.”
Delivering at Scale With Smart Design
As we move toward an era of hybrid events—with both remote audiences and in-person interactions—striking the balance between the tangible and intangible becomes fundamental. Although hybrid events allow for more flexibility, they also add a few extras to the normal event package. “Light, stage design, AR, pop-up graphics. Everything has to work for both the audience at home and the artists on stage,” says Gouwy.
So, how does one produce and deliver design at scale and at speed for such a vast array of formats? It’s no easy feat, but as the team explains, using smart design to keep up with today’s pace is vital. “To ensure coherence, we took the concept of ‘opening up’ and the sense of connection that Eurovision evokes—creating a seamless outward expression, which opens up to reveal content and connect information,” explains Singh. “But of course, as always, it was MediaMonks’ pace and efficiency that enabled us to produce such a long list of deliverables in no time.”
While working with multiple formats, having a fluid design system helps create cohesive experiences while increasing speed-to-market. “Smart design also allowed for the balance of personality and functionality,” added Singh. The “Eurovision track” for instance—a frenetic zigzag of color and texture—became the foundation of the brand’s language: as it presents information along its path, it captures the festivity of Eurovision while representing geography and music.
Putting Culture in the Limelight
Another priority for Eurovision’s 2021 edition was paying tribute to the country that hosted it: The Netherlands. Through some hidden easter eggs and more obvious nods to the Dutch culture, the contest’s new branding strengthened its geographic nature and ensured Holland’s style and colors were transmitted far and wide.
“We created a set of organic and kinetic patterns that represented five different parts of the country,” explained Sophie Smolders, Animation Producer. “Some things are very abstract, but even in the smallest details you can see Holland.” For example, crosshatching evokes the lined tulip fields the region is famous for. And other countries were paid due respect, too: as singers took the stage, the Eurovision track’s palette changed to match the colors of their home country. When looking to maintain consistency across a broad range of touchpoints in a branding strategy, meticulosity is key.
But before getting that far, one has to be familiar with the brand’s identity. “This is the most research the team has ever done for a project,” said Singh. “Since redesigning was important for the brand, we watched all of Eurovision’s past editions to identify the things we could use and focus on.” On that note, Smolders explains: “The stage design was definitely a source of inspiration. We studied it and applied some elements, but went for a more simplified style, removing the unnecessary and stripping it down to the essence so that the design wouldn’t get lost as we translated it to different formats.”
Stoking Excitement Before the Big Day
Leading up to the show, our influencer experts got together with Eurovision’s Official Travel Partner, Booking.com, to stoke excitement all over social media. Through an integrated strategy covering influencer and organic content—both before and during the event—we inspired audiences to experience the music, language and cultures that Europe has to offer, right from the comfort of their own home.
Under the #FriendsAboveRivals hashtag, six famous creators like Vita Cleo Boers and Jamie Windust took their followers on a local trip around their hometowns—a one-night staycation in which they sparked curiosity around their cities. Additionally, all creators received a “party box” filled with foreign snacks and prompt cards to use in conversation with an influencer from a different country on Instagram Live. “This inspired some meaningful conversations around culture, which was a key part of the campaign,” says Renaud Berger, Influencer Project Manager. “Eurovision is such a multicultural event, and Booking.com really cares about diversity, so we made sure our team of creators reflected that.”
During Eurovision, the focus was on enticing passionate followers with exclusive behind-the-scenes content from the venue. Interviews, sneak peeks into rehearsals, wardrobe tours and more were the main ingredients of this combination of live footage and post-produced content. “The mood on set was great,” says Berger. “Everyone was so proud of being there that even though COVID-19 safety protocols made it harder to produce content, our amazing production team, together with our Fan Reporter Mandy Woelkens, were able to create amazing social content for the client, live from the Eurovision scene!”
As brands experience a demand for more complex, hybrid experiences, smart design systems and powerful social activations can help them show up for their audience with quality and speed—answering to today’s demands for agility, boosting accessibility and improving overall performance. This, of course, is especially true for brands that seek to speak to multiple cultures and build their relevance across geographical borders, cultivating brand love everywhere.
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