Ideas Delight Passion

The Making of ‘Rufus’

The story of a bird, a Championship, and a tennis court

Our team at Star Sports India persevered many challenges to create the Wimbledon ‘Rufus’ on-air promo that won a Gold for 'Best Promo' and a Silver for 'Best CG Animation' at PromaxBDA India Awards 2017

The 23rd floor at Starhouse HQ, where the Star Sports team sits, is steeped in the high-energy of passionate sports lovers and ideamongers. When they take time out to talk about a successful campaign, in-between the daily madness, they exude the same enthusiasm. Their eyes light up, and all that.

As the On-Air Promo team for International Sports huddled inside a conference room, we could sense this playful mood – it was also one of extreme satisfaction for a job well done. Just last month they had won a Gold for Best Promo and a Silver for Best CG Animation at the PromaxBDA India Awards for the Wimbledon ‘Rufus’ promo.

It was the final validation for all the hard work they had put in. They exchanged glances and laughed intermittently as they recalled the days leading up to the campaign – 7 long and trepid days as they feared the promo would fall flat at the execution stage just after they had landed on one of the most brilliant ideas. Like it usually is in the world of crazy ad ideas, it involved several unrelated ingredients – a bird, a tennis court, and a historically true factoid that nobody knew of.

In June 2016, the marketing team, Jarmanjeet Randhawa and Snigdha S, had come armed with insights and possible hooks for the campaign to announce Wimbledon 2016 on Star Sports. They’d also brought in Rachna Nayyar from programming to help with the same.


Rufus, Wimbledon's Official Bird Scarer

They presented the first insight: For 16 years now, there is a hawk that stands guard at Wimbledon, whose job is to scare other birds such as pigeons that distract players on court. The hawk also has an official name and designation: Rufus, Official Bird Scarer.

For 16 years, there is a hawk that stands guard at Wimbledon, whose job is to scare other birds on court
The hawk also has an official name and designation: Rufus, Official Bird Scarer

The Creative and OAP teams was psyched with what they just heard. This was enough, they didn’t need to hear the other hooks. Vaibhav Chib, VP & OAP Head, and Abhijat Bharadwaj, Executive Producer, immediately put their teams to work.

“I remember when Rachna and our marketing team first mentioned Rufus, Vaibhav and I were sold. We just had to use him! We just needed to figure out how,” recalls Bharadwaj.

Chib was confident from the get go, “From an executional standpoint, I knew we would be able to pull it off. The trick was to source the best shots of Rufus from the Wimbledon archives.”

As their minds started churning with script ideas, execution challenges, footage requirements, they knew they had something big on their hands. This could possibly lead to an award-winning campaign.

"But, wait, could this idea get approved? And then it did; we were shocked!" says Aditya Rathod, producer, OAP. 

“I remember telling the team, there is one good news and one bad news. The good news is the idea is approved, and the bad news is I don’t know how long it will take to get the Rufus footage from Wimbledon.”
Aditya Rathod, Producer, OAP

The team’s writers, Dhruv Tiwari and Priyank Gupta then used “pens, papers, laptops and anything else that produced words” to bring the script to life. They wrote a humorous, witty script that was hooked on the idea that ‘Rufus envies you. Because he doesn’t get to watch the Wimbledon, but you can. So you should’.

“Our first order of business was to get Rufus footage from the Wimbledon team; for our promo to come alive, this footage was key,” says Raviraj Shikari, Senior Motion Graphic Design.


In Search of Rufus

But an unexpected delay in getting the Rufus footage resulted in days of anxiety, which left the team feeling dejected and unsure if the promo would even get made. “We decided to turn the problem on its head and took a call to create the film entirely using CG animation and VFX,” says Jay Bhanushali, AVP, Broadcast Design. They labored over each shot in the 60-second promo for hours till they created a film that looked real, even though it was largely a cumulative of stock photos, stock footage, and motion graphics.

“Despite the setback, the graphics team believed in their abilities and pulled a hawk out of thin air. It turns out, we didn’t really need footage of Rufus!” says Chib.

“You see this shot. The bird is actually not there. It’s just a shot of the tennis court. And we have used our graphic to perch Rufus on this wall,” explained the team.

The team laboured over each shot for days to make sure each detail looks real
The Rufus promo is entirely made with CG Animation and VFX
'Rufus' won Gold for Best Promo and a Silver for Best CG Animation at the PromaxBD India Awards 2017
“We all share the same passion for creating something good. When an idea hits us, I am not worried if I will get support from the team. We will all do whatever it takes, in very little time even, to make it happen.”
Aditya Rathod, Producer, OAP

Following the ‘Rufus’ promo, the OAP team also created a ‘Queen’ promo, which won a Silver in ‘Best Work Never Seen’ category at PromaxBD India Awards. The VO masquerades as the Queen’s voice, who is tired of being ‘Her Majesty’, a graceful public figure, when she would much rather enjoy the game like ‘the peasants around her’.

'Queen' won a Silver in ‘Best Work Never Seen’ category at PromaxBD India Awards 2017

And for fun, they even created the ‘Trophy’ promo, where the trophy for the Wimbledon Men’s Final is personified into a woman who is delighted that she will be the one to ‘kiss the Champion today’.

Wimbledon 2017

This year, the team has produced the ‘Where Champions Become Legends’ promo, which is based on a strong punch line: ‘Some seeds will grow into grass, and some seeds into legends’. The promo is in tune with Wimbledon’s overarching campaign, ‘In Pursuit of Greatness’ and a ‘A Year in The Making’ that honour the Championships for its tradition, history and detailing.

The OAP team also created a ‘BEL19VE’ campaign to support Roger Federer in his pursuit of the 19th Grand Slam title.

The team is looking forward to some exciting work on the upcoming English Premier League that starts in August, and the ongoing 71st Season of Formula One.

The Rufus team (from left to right): Dinesh Parab – Sound Mixing, Nilesh Thosar - Sound Mixing, Dhruv Tiwari - Producer & Copy Writer, Aditya Rathod – Producer, Raviraj Shikari – Senior Motion Graphic Design, Satish Solanki - Sound Mixing, Jay Bhanushali – AVP Broadcast Design
Left to right: Priyank Gupta - Producer & Copy Writer and Abhijat Bharadwaj – Executive Producer

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