Have you heard of liquid mountaineering or hydro sprinting? If you haven’t, you missed a classic online hoax/marketing gimmick of 2010. It was an awesome online campaign created for Hi-tec Adventure Footwear by an Amsterdam based agency called CCCP. It’s definitely one of the most popular campaigns of the previous year.
Earlier, in November 2009, CCCP had launched a simple blogspot blog run by a Mr. Eingestellt von Ulf. In 2010, blog activity increased, in February the blog had images of Ulf and his buddies (presumably) trying their new hobby, running on water. In April, a blog post titled Small Step For Man said they’d achieved the unthinkable. Around the same time (April 2010), a YouTube video was posted by a 38 year old guy from Portugal named TheUlfG. It was a run-of-the-mill HD documentary type, how-to video with some outdoorsy guys by a lakeside in Portugal. The video told viewers about a new adventure sport, a fad that was taking off quite nicely. It explained the concept of liquid mountaineering or to put it simply, it taught viewers how to run on water.
Not walk on water, run on it.
According to these guys, if you use the right speed, angle and distributed your weight correctly, it is possible to run a few steps on water, before splashing into it. Much like a stone skipping on water before finally sinking in it. Of course, you’d need the right kind of hydrophobic shoes to do the trick and Hi-tec was absolutely the right type of shoe! As the video progresses, you know it’s a prank, but the guys explain the science so earnestly, you almost want to believe someone’s found a way to run on water! Then seven more videos were uploaded, of guys running into half frozen lakes in diving suits! Everyone who saw these, had to think twice about the sport. Could it be? Was it a joke? Was it really a sport? It must be a hoax! No wait, it’s real and it means only one thing. Gasp, shock, wow, Jesus Lives! And so the buzz went on. And on.
As the video gained more hits (presently 9,360,584), www.liquidmountaineering.org went up and netizens began actively debating the veracity of the video. The number of Google searches for the term liquid mountaineering shot up around May/June 2010. Traffic to the liquidmountaineering.org website shot up as well.
By April 2010, folks were blogging about it, debating if it was possible, trying to make their own ‘running on water videos’ (shoes optional) and that’s when the guys at Discovery’s mythbusters busted the sport. But by then, multiple Facebook pages had cropped up, the official one had over 5300 fans! Tweets, shares and Diggs ensured that thousands more saw the video and finally in June, when enough people were talking about it, the parent company announced the video was a part of a promotional campaign.
Here’s what Simon Bonham, Hi-Tec Group Head of Marketing had to say about the campaign;
“We wanted to create a piece of entertainment around our hydrophobic footwear and get people talking and thinking about the brand differently.” He added, “The idea was to take a traditional form of marketing and totally turn it around on its head, in the process capturing the fun spirited side of our brand. The reaction to the viral has surpassed all expectations; with people all over the world debating whether this could indeed be possible or not and even trying to do their own Liquid Mountaineering. We’ve even seen a number of entertaining attempts appear on YouTube and other places on the Web”
- Simon Bonham, Hi-Tec Group Head of Marketing
Remember, Liquid Mountaineering is a non-existent sport and a brand new term was coined up explicitly for the campaign. Both the sport and the term have become a BIG success and even after the campaign ended, even after the makers admitted it as a hoax, new youtube videos on hydro sprinting, still go up, every few weeks!
Here’s what the geniuses at CCCP had to say about the campaign;
“Make us cool”. A simple brief and yet a difficult challenge. Competing with mega brands like Adidas and Nike with a fraction of their budget, we decided to invest in a clever idea instead of media.
We started with an idea that people want to believe in. Hi-Tec’s hydrophobic shoes are so water repellent; they allow you to walk on water. This simple idea resulted in a viral film, which mesmerized over 7 million viewers across the globe and became one of 2010’s most successful viral campaigns worldwide. Through clever use of teaser films and social media, we convinced millions of people that Liquid Mountaineering was actually a new sport. Soon after the film hit the web, it triggered a lively discussion amongst viewers and lots of daredevil “me-too’s” started uploading their own films, mostly poor attempts. Without spending any money on media, the film got picked up by tv stations globally, including ESPN, FOX and RTL Germany and was dubbed “One of the cleverest hoaxes on the internet this year”, by the Sunday Times.
- From the CCCP website
Check out the making of the videos here.
And next time your employer wants you to push a concept online, think out of the box, think out of the world, think Liquid Mountaineering and do something different!