How the East African cycling team became the face of Meta's vision

How the East African cycling team became the face of Meta’s vision

Spend enough time in front of the screen right now, and you’ll probably find it – a vibrant and colorful ad featuring a team of African cyclists riding on cobblestone roads, on indoor coaches, and in the future. It’s the latest major campaign from Meta – the company formerly known as Facebook – and uses cycling as a lens to showcase the company’s technology potential. It’s a visual representation of “the future possibilities of the metaverse… and how the benefits of meta can apply to teamwork, communication, and opportunity,” a Meta spokesperson told CyclingTips.

While some of the techniques depicted have yet to materialize, the stars of the ad are very real. they are Amani team, a group of cyclists across East Africa – in Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda – who harnessed the possibilities of electronic racing to achieve their goals. The team was originally founded to provide racing opportunities to East African cyclists in hopes of transcending the sport’s structural barriers. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, stopping was reframed as an opportunity: Through e-racing, cyclists were able to gain experience and overcome entrenched prejudice.

Now that the world has returned to a hazy kind of new normal, the team’s athletes – male and female, from all three countries – are regularly present at the gravel track, along with the races at Zwift. The ad they appear in was produced by Droga5 . Agency – A multi-award winning company that has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world – and they are Currently sorting Across social media, television, and streaming video, “with launch week highlights including America’s Got Talent, The Bachelorette, Major League Baseball, MasterChef and Video Music Awards.”

All of that would be a big problem for Which Cycling entity, not to mention one of the remote half of the world, is in East Africa.

Intrigued by this lavish, high-budget ad and what it means for the Amani team, I reached out to the team’s “chef”, Michael Delagrange – an American human rights lawyer based in Switzerland, who currently works between Palestine and Darfur – to get an insight into the origins of the campaign, and what its goals were, And where things can grow from here.


Tips: I’m reaching out to you because we saw the Amani and Meta campaign, which raised some interesting questions and was also just a great video. What can you tell me how this partnership came about?

Mikel Delagrange: It’s a cautionary tale not to delete what you think might be spam too quickly. [laughs] Basically – it was about March, I think – you probably got one liner in my Amani mailbox saying, ‘We can’t tell you who we are or who we represent or what that is. But sign this non-disclosure agreement [NDA]We will tell you more.

At that point, he wasn’t even dead. It was Droga5 who sent me the email, this amazing production company in Manhattan. But yeah – that was the email, and I was like, “This is probably spam,” you know, and it almost got deleted.

i mean it sounds Like spam.

Yes Yes! But then, you were like “NDA”? This is a new trick by a Nigerian scam artist…so I thought I’d open it up and see. So I opened a non-disclosure agreement, and I’m an attorney of course, so I could see that it was real. So it was like, “Let’s just see how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

It was very intense from the start, because it was really thorough. And so I was on the phone with my counterpart there, I think maybe for an hour a day for like two months.

They knew more about us than anyone thought before. It was a really serious production. It was a huge production when they ended up giving it the green light and they came and shot this movie with our athletes in Masaka, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya; Whitten [also Kenya]. And we negotiated a deal for the athletes, which was really beneficial to them individually – kind of life changing for everyone on the team.

The production itself was absolutely insane. There were designs in three or four different production houses. From South Africa, from Los Angeles, from London … they flew like 50 people. It was absolutely insane – it was great. Some of the best people in the world do this thing to photograph that little piece. It was really cool.

I’ve been trying to figure out if this is part of a bunch of different ads, given the different ways the metaverse can be used for a bunch of different apps – music, education, whatever – or if it’s just The The advertising they do, you know? Is this part of a broader campaign?

Well, I mean, maybe it’s part of a broader campaign, but I think that was the big bet of the year. This was the big production. And I think, obviously, they’re trying to use our partial story to tell a macro story about the potential of the metaverse. If there is a series, I don’t think it will be released this year. I think that was the big thing.

What is the extent of its distribution?

My dad says he sees him twice a day in the States. [laughs] They’re playing it in the world championships…it’s all over the place. Television, internet and social media. I think they’re pushing it hard.

Do you know how they faced Amani’s team in the beginning? This seems to require some kind of insider knowledge, or at least an interest in cycling on its end.

No nonsense, I thought it might have been your article.

Right! we will. Happy to play a small role!

Yes, it was great. [laughter] But I think, you know, that was the one piece that we dived deeply into that relationship between technology and border-ripping and all of that. They were well informed on this topic during a conversation.

Screenshot: Meta

Is there any indication from the Meta about how, specifically, they can create that digital space of vision described in the ad?

My interactions have nothing to do with what they do. I have no idea. But my suspicion is that they are more interested in the platform than the individual apps. It’s as if they’re creating a universe – they don’t care which countries or planets are in it. I think they just want to build the platform, build the universe, and then do with it whatever we want.

to move to something A little more realistic Рthe ad appeared in late August, at the same time as the death of [Team Amani captain] Solomon Kangenji. [This interview was conducted while Delagrange was in Kenya, having just attended Kangangi’s funeral.]

First – this is really horrible, I’m really sorry, and I hope you are all doing well as expected. But with regards to this particular campaign, which Sule starred in – did that have any effect on how it was rolled out or anything else? Have things been delayed or minimized, or anything like that?

Yes, of course. I think if that hadn’t happened, the enthusiasm and drive for the movie would probably have been much stronger. It has to be toned down, especially on our part – we didn’t promote it until yesterday.

But having said that, I was talking to Sully’s wife and the team and everything. And, you know, once our friend was properly honored, the other conclusion was that everyone wanted to honor the legacy, dream and move on. And that’s what we said [Meta]. They added a little tribute at the end. This is the only thing that has changed of this kind since the event.

One last question without judgment. Meta isn’t a company with a more stellar reputation – I think it could very well be argued that some of their behaviors have hurt different groups of people. Was there any resistance or reluctance on my part to tie your wagon to the Meta in this way?

This is a good question. And believe me, it’s not just about the meta. It pertains to any corporate entity. I suppose we all have some kind of sensitivity to the idea that we’re going to take advantage of – or the likeness of our athletes, or their geopolitical situation, or that anything It will be exploited without benefiting from it directly.

And so right from the start, this was a very strong line that we took — that we’re not going to wash out human rights, or we’re not going to launder the environment, or Which Kind of laundering for any company, including Meta, unless their subscription is meaningful to us, to our athletes. This was very useful. So. This way – first of all, it wasn’t just my decision, it was a team decision, and it was a decision in which all the facts were made public. And then, even with other partners, [we] They just had these conversations so they know everyone is on board.

Screenshot: Meta

I think in general, when people see that they’re going to do it right by us – it wasn’t just, you know, putting a picture of power-deprived African athletes on their lunchbox… that was actually, it was a story that helped us figure out how, what tool we’re going to use At our disposal to break down the door. The messages were aligned and were not nonsense. So all things considered, this is a one time post and not superficial and will help us move forward and move forward. Also, they just get the message across the way they have it to an audience that doesn’t know about the team and what we’re trying to do – all of those things are very important.


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