Spithill left in Finnigan’s wake as Kiwi restores some of the nation’s pride in Vodafone campaign

Sam Finnigan, a polite accountant hailing from Kohimarama, has won back at least some of the nation’s pride by defeating super villain and defending America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill in a Samsung smartphone-controlled sailing race.      

This victory draws the curtain on Vodafone’s promotional campaign, which was launched in October to push the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 as well as the telco’s 4G network. 

Finnigan won the chance to take on Spithill after competing in a mobile yachting game developed by digital specialists Gladeye as part of the campaign conceptualised by creative agency True. 

From its launch, the game proved popular with Kiwis, eventually resulting in a tally of 55,000 plays. As Kiwis vied for the chance to take on the Australian sailor, Vodafone posted the fastest times to a leaderboard and, as the window closed, Finnigan finished atop the pile. 

In the video clip made in the aftermath of campaign, Finnigan explains that the reason he won was because he kept tabs on the wind forecast and ensured that he was online as soon as the breeze in the Hauraki Gulf picked up. 

This points to a unique feature integrated into the design of the app, which replicated real-time weather conditions in the game. Players would get live wind readings from the Hauraki Gulf and harness these readings to work their way around the course. Vodafone also tailored its marketing to the weather conditions, running more ads when the wind was up and fewer when it was down.  

Having clocked up quite a few hours playing the game, Finnigan found himself in the unlikely position of the favourite when taking on Spithill, but everything didn’t go according to plan. In the practice run before the official race, Spithill clocked in the quickest time.

But then, when it came to the official race, Finnigan showed composure as he leaned out of a helicopter, steering the yacht around course with a Samsung Galaxy in the fastest time.         

“Racing a yacht from a helicopter is a lot different to racing from the boat, so I knew that would level the playing field – and it did,” says Finnigan. “It was a first for me, for Jimmy and Vodafone so anything could have happened.  Thankfully everything fell into place and I was able to claim one back for the country.”

Matt Williams, Vodafone’s consumer director, praised the Kiwi’s effort, saying: “Racing a giant remote controlled boat from a helicopter is not an everyday thing. We’re delighted to have been able to give someone the chance to do something extraordinary like this for the first time.  And what’s more, we’re thrilled it was Sam who came out on top.”

While Vodafone’s online game has been discontinued since the conclusion of the campaign, other brands have enjoyed some impressive longevity when it comes to campaign-related games. 

One example would be the Volvo Ocean Race game, which launched several years ago and still has over 150,800 active players.

The reason for this success is because the long-form, strategic nature of the game keeps participants interested and engaged for an extended period of time. This would however not be possible in the Vodafone example, on account of its game taking a shorter format.   

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