How McCann ‘Opened the Open’ with Mastercard Virtual Fans at the 2021 Australian Open

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How McCann ‘Opened the Open’ with Mastercard Virtual Fans at the 2021 Australian Open

The 2021 Australian Open was the most ambitious and complicated global sporting event to be run with live attendance, since the COVID Pandemic. But how did sponsors react to so many unknowns? Mastercard and McCann Australia decided to focus on sharing more of the AO with fans who couldn’t be there in person.


Tennis fans from all over the globe were able to connect with the Australian Open like never before, by becoming a Mastercard Virtual Fan. These life-sized humanoids allowed thousands of people to get closer to this year’s tournament, at a time when attendance fluctuated from 50% to complete lockdown during the event.

How McCann ‘Opened the Open’ with Mastercard Virtual Fans at the 2021 Australian Open

As a Virtual Fan, people who couldn’t attend could transport themselves into the very heart of Melbourne Park. Real fans were taken behind the scenes, met players and commentators, took part in personal coaching sessions with superstars, and mingled with fellow fans.

A custom Instagram filter allowed anyone to beam their reactions to play onto the face of a courtside Virtual Fan, and even become part of the global broadcast.

How McCann ‘Opened the Open’ with Mastercard Virtual Fans at the 2021 Australian Open

Says Kirsty Redfearn, vice president, area marketing, Mastercard Australasia: “Year after year, the Australian Open has demonstrated its unique ability to bring people and communities together through their love of tennis. After the events and uncertainty of 2020, the need for this sense of connectedness has never been so important. The Virtual Fans combined technology with fan passion to create hundreds of Priceless moments for fans around the world, connecting people with the tournament like never before.”

Says Ben Coulson, chief creative officer, McCann: “We knew the event would be closed to so many, and as it happened, to everyone for five whole days of state lockdown, so we wanted an idea that could keep the tournament open to all, no matter how volatile the attendance situation. Via Virtual Fans, people everywhere literally become part of the action. Fans from all over the world engaged with Mastercard and got to be front row- for some matches, even be the only fans in the stadium.”

How McCann ‘Opened the Open’ with Mastercard Virtual Fans at the 2021 Australian Open

Says Adam Beaupeurt, manager director, digital at Hero Group’s B.B.E: “The Virtual Fans included a plethora of the latest tech – being able to live stream 360-degree vision, host Zoom interviews with hundreds of Mastercard cardholders simultaneously, and update content from our custom Instagram Filter in real time.”

Kirsty Redfearn – Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Australasia Katherine Butterworth – Director, Consumer Marketing & Sponsorship
Anne Wall – Director, B2B Marketing & Communications
Luke McClelland – Manager, Communications
Marini Syarif – Senior Specialist, Digital Marketing
Louise Walker – Specialist, Consumer Marketing

Chief Creative Officer – Ben Coulson
Creative Director – Andrew Woodhead
Senior Copywriter – Josh Bryer
Senior Art Directors – Nick Plomp and Alex Moore
Producers – Nikki Jones and Melina Flood
Executive Strategy Director – Roshni Hegerman
Senior Business Lead – Caroline McLaughlin
Senior Account Director – Isabella Timar
Senior Digital Producer – Cameron Richardson

B.B.E – Digital Partner
Strategy Director – Adam Beaupeurt
Head of Production – Tim Hamilton
Creative Director – Simon Robins
Producer – John Martin
Creative Technologist – Sarah Tan
Video Editor – Louie Symmons
In partnership with Boom Studios, Hyped Media and 5Stream

Octagon – Sports entertainment & sponsorship agency partner
Group Account Director, ANZ – Kirsty Jones
Group Account Director, APAC – Elizabeth DeFeo
Senior Strategist, ANZ – David Gregory
Account Director, ANZ – Claire Ho
Senior Account Manager, APAC – Michiyo Suzuki
Senior Account Executive, APAC – Tizian Ibach

Eleven – PR agency partner

Carat – Media agency partner
Client Partner – Scott McCaffrey
Client Director – Robyn Li
Head of Partnerships – Leontine DeSutter
Digital Manager – Harry Meech