First, they gave us Bankole and De Pinna, whose Yebo Gogo story lasted nearly 10 years with a total of 15 campaigns. There's also been, amongst others, the 4U Baby, the Meerkat, and George and Lucky. Now there's Jan, the 23rd player in any South African rugby squad.
Originated to support Vodacom's rugby sponsorship for 2009 and beyond, Jan made his first appearance a few months ago. A weekend ago (May 30), he made his second appearance in a campaign called ‘Jan, the sequel'.
According to executive creative director, Grant Jacobsen, Player 23 is the ultimate acknowledgement, from SA's largest rugby sponsor, of the supporters' essential part in the game.
“The first ad in the series successfully introduced the concept of a 23rd player into South African rugby culture, a concept that has been well and truly accepted by the fans,” Jacobsen said.
“For example, at the annual Michael House/Hilton schools rugby game held recently in KwaZulu-Natal, learners from Michael House broke with tradition and had a Player 23 jersey made up in the 1st XV colours, waving it enthusiastically to the crowds to rally support. It's been reported that Hilton intends to do the same.”
Vodacom's Managing Marketing Executive, Enzo Scarcella continues: “The sequel extends the idea into the international season, and introduces another lovable, quirky, larger than life rugby aficionado to the mix to ignite ‘Bok fever ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour.
“Vodacom Super 14 may be over, but local rivalries are still fresh in people's minds. This campaign captures the national team's power of unification; of wiping away the boundaries created by provincial rugby and unifying all South Africans - all Player 23s - under a single green and gold banner.”
Like the first commercial, the second features the Afrikaans singing sensation, Robbie Wessels, and several dynamite lookers performing to new lyrics; and was shot by boutique commercials production company, Picture Tree, with director Alan Irvin.
It opens on a peaceful suburban neighbourhood where Jan is in his garden: Springbok topiaries abound and a Springbok flag sits proudly in the window. He looks over to Elton's house across the street, and smiles gloatingly. But, as darkness falls, Elton hits a switch, turning the outside of his house into a Springbok Christmas-light extravaganza.
Various scenarios exploring the rivalry between the two men ensue, until, finally, inside a packed stadium, Jan and Elton are found looking for their seats for the all-important test match. They approach from opposite sides and end up in front of the only open seat, which has been double-booked. There is a tense moment, but when the Springboks run onto the field, Jan and Elton realise they are on the same side.
“The final cut in the new commercial is from the rear and we see that both Jan and Elton are wearing the number 23 on their backs; the camera pulls back to reveal that all supporters in the stadium, too, are Player 23s.
“'The Bokke makes us one' is the overriding message. It's not about Vodacom's investment in the game, it's not about rivalry - it's all about getting behind the Boks as one nation,” Jacobsen said.