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A portrait of Zidane. Slogan : “I love making you win. » And that’s all. Here is the story in 4 by 3 of the famous Leader Price ad. Forever the first in the long list of the most sponsored French sportsman in history.

As so often in life, it all starts with a phone call. October 14, 1998, Willy Huret is creative director in a French agency of the American advertising giant Leo Burnett. That day, a friend suggested he go see the Blues match against Andorra at the Stade de France. In the presidential box. Hesitant at first, the advertiser accepts when his friend tells him that they can then have dinner with the players. Good for him. During the famous meal, chance makes him sit right next to Zidane. “I asked him straight away: “Zinédine, McDonald’s is going to do a campaign with Barthez’s skull. Were you offered anything?” He told me no.” Willy promises him to search actively. The two men shake hands. The footballer probably without believing it, the advertiser with the certainty that he is on the right track. “The Zidane phenomenon lies in the fact that it has never been discussed, unlike many otherhe explains today. The Zidane line is a highway. » The next day, Willy Huret had a first idea: to associate ZZ with another world champion. The Peugeot 206, undisputed n°1 in rallying. Unconvinced, the automaker let the advertiser hang around. “It was horrible: Zizou could forget our meeting or sign anywhere. And there, I had an idea, a flash. »

“Not the most beautiful portrait of the year”

A flash in the form of a two-tone red and blue square. A friend recently told him about Leader Price. So he rushes to the offices of Jean-Marc Soula, head of advertising for the brand. Who seizes the opportunity at the leap. Willy Huret knows right away where he wants to go: “To accumulate two ascents: Zidane had gathered at the World Cup, and Leader Price was trying to unite around the promise of value for money. » From this premise, the creative team arrives at a simple but effective slogan: “I love making you win” . Understand: on the field as well as on the shelves. It remains only to attach the services of ZZ, not difficult to convince. Perhaps because he also finds a certain interest in this campaign. “We tend to think that brands will seek stars to gain notoriety, but here it was both waysrecalls Jean-Pierre Mialon, creative at the time at Leo Burnett, who also worked on the brief. It gave the company a kick in the ass, but it was also a stepping stone for Zidane. There was everything to gain for two “brands” starting together. »

As soon as the main lines of the project were validated, Willy Huret got back in touch with Zidane, and visited him in Turin a few times for the photo shoot of the portraits. “Each time, I was wrong, he remembers. I always brought too loose shirts, because Zidane was skinny. » Upon arrival, when the visuals take shape, their authenticity compensates for their spontaneity. “It was perhaps not the most beautiful portrait of the yearsupports Jean-Pierre Mialon, but it seemed close to people, simpler. » In early 1999, the campaign was launched. From the outset it garnered an insane popular success. “We had produced T-shirts bearing the image of Zidane. We were handing out 250,000 a week. It was crazy. » So much so that the leaders of the company themselves get caught up in the game: Jean-Charles Naouri, boss of Leader Price, has a life-size cardboard cutout of Zidane installed in his office. In one year, the cumulative awareness of the Casino group’s hard-discounter has risen from 23 to 74% and its market share has increased by 3.7 points. Far ahead of its direct competitors.

1.5 million francs in fees

“It would be impossible to do this again todaysays Jean-Pierre Mialon. Especially in such a short time and spending so little. » A little over 1.5 million francs according to a former manager of the store group, or around 305,000 euros. At the time, however, the campaign was criticized. Some competing advertisers accuse it of having “do anything with Zidane” . Jealousy for Willy Huret: “It’s always the same when someone pulls a punch… When I saw him again a few years ago, Zidane spoke of the campaign with sincere emotion. » For Zizou, in fact, the campaign is the starting point of an adventure that will make him the darling sportsman of advertisers. “Groups like Dior, Canal and Ford then arrived very quickly. » A year later, Zizou also created Zidane Diffusion, a company run by his brothers and sister, which also employed his father-in-law Antoine Fernandez and his childhood friend Mustapha Mazouz, to manage ever-increasing offers. “It would have been logical for him to start with a company like Dior, summarizes Jean-Pierre Mialon. But the snub, and what has always pleased me, is that the move was made by Leader Price. » Willy Huret remembers the relationship of trust built with the French No. 10: “He was fantastic. He’s a man who doesn’t talk much, but he’s very sensitive. I had thus proposed to him to put his silhouette on shopping bags. He refused, telling me that we always end up finding them on the ground. He didn’t want to be stepped on. »
Article taken from our book dedicated to Zinédine Zidane, available here.

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Peggy McColl

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