HSBC's "Serious Play" is Just That. Don't Overanalyze It.

HSBC-Serious-Play-BEven though my tastes trend toward charred meats and Bruce Willis flicks, I don't know from rugby. As it has been explained to me, the sport involves tackling, biting, mud, toothlessness and collegial beer intake. If that's the case, I don't know how it hasn't long since captured my fancy, much less lapped medium-contact pursuits like hockey or Black Friday shopping here in the U. S. of effin' A.

But while it's Tebow-and-Lin-marry-Kardashians-level news in much of the rest of the free world, this weekend's 2012 Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens tournament hadn't blipped on my leisure-time radar, at least not until I was forwarded a "film" (read: slightly longer ad) produced by HSBC for the occasion. It lacks proportion and subtlety, and recasts rugby as an urban deathsport - all good things in my book. Join me, will you, on my voyage of discovery.



The clip, "Serious Play," opens on a Hong Kong street, where be-vested dudes in cowboy hats are running around willy-nilly, as if really late for work. Turns out that they're engaged in a high-stakes game of Keep Away, one in which bonus points are awarded for slo-mo jumping and annihilation of vegetable carts. They're encountered by another bunch of dudes, all dressed like members of Blue Man Group's green-bodysuited auxiliary unit. And they're shifty and manic, and set on stealing the Cowboys' HSBC-branded rugby ball. (Question: Is it called a "rugby ball," or is there some sport-specific term for it that I'll get ripped for not knowing, like "tossy-orb"?) One poor Cowboy gets tackled by a car. This is so much cooler than golf.

Then the camera randomly flashes on a black dude drinking coffee, a weird artistic choice amid the chaos. While my first thought is that this may be an attempt to shoehorn in a message of racial inclusiveness - because god forbid anyone should think HSBC doesn't boast a veritable pan-ethnic rainbow of a customer base - it appears that the random dude is George Gregan, a rugby-player-guy of some repute. That's one for the insiders. Anyway.

The Green Man Group encounters a bunch of jumbo-size elves, who have abandoned their toy-making stalls in the interest of confusing and/or terrorizing passersby. They also want the HSBC ball… as does another street gang, this one clad in white pantsuits with disco collars. This crew promptly butts heads, literally, with a bunch of extras from the movie 300. Bodies are crunched and flung with abandon. Then a bunch of luchadores show up and crash through tables, as is their wont.

At this point, I have it scored thusly: Green Man Group 28, Elves 20, Cowboys 18, Disco Dancefighters 18, Luchadores 12, Extras From 300 8. I penalized the Disco Dancefighters 2 points due to the illegal width of their collars.

Now there are Vikings and either U.S. founding fathers or kabuki actors with slicked-back Shogun ponytails. I can't tell, because the video cuts so quickly between scenes and combatants that it becomes a blur after a while. And just like that, we're in a restaurant, where the Green Men are ignoring the dickens out of the "no ball-playing or table-walking-on" sign on the wall. It goes on like this for a while. Eventually we circle back to the Extras from 300, who have the tossy-orb in hand when the clip ends. I guess that means they won?

In conclusion, I don't have the slightest idea as to what's happening in this clip, nor whom it's happening to. But there's no grand goal here, from an HSBC branding perspective or any other. Just enjoy it for what it is: shiny, meticulously choreographed and set to the strains of a politely rollicking song by the Black Keys, who have replaced The Pixies as the go-to band for coolness-by-association.

"Serious Play" more than capably conveys excitement for the tourney ahead, and that's plenty. One could find far duller ways to spend 90 seconds of one's free time.

3 comments about "HSBC's "Serious Play" is Just That. Don't Overanalyze It.".
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  1. Stuart Meyler from Beeby Clark + Meyler, March 22, 2012 at 3:01 p.m.

    A couple of comments:

    1. This is a rip off of a fairly famous, at least among the rugby community, Nike ad "Keep the Ball Alive". This ad used famous rugby players in civilian garb playing a city wide game of full contact rugby.

    2. The costumes are reflective of the fans at 7's Rugby Tournaments. They often dress up (Elvis, Gladiators, etc.). There is a fair amount of pride in coming up with the funniest/most original garb (think Halloween).

    This is the second major video effort I have seen this week that unabashedly ripped off an earlier idea. The other was Verizon's "Bad Idea" spot that is a direct rip off of an old SNL skit.

  2. Jason Phillips from Local SMB Search, March 22, 2012 at 3:04 p.m.

    In all seriousness, it's definitely called a rugby ball, toothlessness is more closely associated with hockey (rugby players wear mouthguards) and "collegial beer intake" refers to where the sport was around 30 years ago. It's currently one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., and given that it will be an Olympic sport again in 2016, it will become more and more mainstream here (NBC now nationally broadcasts professional and high school tournaments). I believe the different characters in this video represent the international aspect of IRB Rugby Sevens - that is a tourney involving many nations. Minus the forward passes (which are illegal in rugby), this video is awesome. Well done HSBC!

  3. Carolyn Hansen from Hacker Group, March 22, 2012 at 3:08 p.m.

    I didn't think the video could make me laugh as much as your description of it did. But I was wrong. Thanks.

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