Last October, social media was abuzz with public sightings of ex-Manchester United football superstar David Beckham in Singapore.
Photographs of him went viral on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Unsurprisingly, speculation about the reason for his visit was rife.
Was the dapper sports star here on holiday? Was he thinking of buying a home at Sentosa Cove? Was he doing a photoshoot for an international luxury fashion house?
It turns out that none of the rumours hit the nail on the head.
He was, in fact, in town to shoot a new Never Settle marketing campaign for Marina Bay Sands.
Conceptualised by American creative agency AR New York, the campaign for the integrated resort goes live tomorrow and will appear in local and regional dailies, magazines and billboards in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and China, with the commercials airing on network cable channels and digital platforms.
Interestingly, sightings of him on the property were few and far in between, mainly because the multi-million-dollar campaign was shot late into the early hours of the morning - even at 4am - and in highly secretive conditions.
The Never Settle campaign, which describes how Marina Bay Sands does not settle for the status quo, features four print advertisements and a two-minute commercial, with shorter 30- and 60-second versions.
Mr George Tanasijevich, CEO and president of Marina Bay Sands, says of its partnership with the football star: "David Beckham shares many of the qualities that Marina Bay Sands prides ourselves in, such as sportsmanship, style and luxury."
The campaign was directed by American director and photographer Anthony Mandler, whose previous projects include music videos for Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Beyonce. The integrated resort declined to say how much Beckham and Mandler were paid.
The project took a total of 25½ hours of filming to complete and follows Beckham as he experiences different facets of the integrated resort - taking in everything from the hotel's luxe Chairman suite to glittering views of the Singapore skyline from the Sands SkyPark.
The fact that Mandler and Beckham have been long-time collaborators was critical to the project, the director tells Life! in an e-mail interview. He previously shot Beckham's campaigns for Breitling, Motorola, adidas and the footballer's own David Beckham Homme Fragrance, and he says their chemistry helped wrap up the entire project without a hitch.
"Any time there's an opportunity to work with David on creating a campaign, it's a priority for me," says Mandler. "Plus I was excited to get on board because at Marina Bay Sands, there's something more dramatic and exuberant at every turn and I wanted to capture that excitement and energy in the commercial."
The challenge for the team, however, was doing all that without disrupting the nearly 110,000 visitors who pass through the hotel daily.
To get around this, the 125-strong crew and 100 staff from the hotel had to move like clockwork, doing multiple run-throughs and setting up and tearing down each scene with precision in a matter of hours, so as to not disrupt the hotel's operations.
A particularly challenging scene features Beckham gazing at the panoramic view of the city's skyline from the hotel's infinity pool. To get the perfect shot, the crew built a custom- made platform with lightweight steel so that Beckham could stand - quite literally - on water, allowing them to capture the scene in the soft evening light. That particular section of the pool was closed off to hotel guests for less than four hours, the time it took to set up and dismantle the scene.
Other nifty moves by the hotel include temporarily moving one of its taxi stands from the casino to the Convention Center to cater to the opening scene of the advertisement - which sees Beckham pulling up at the hotel in a sleek black car and being greeted by paparazzi.
The hotel also set up a makeshift production office in one of its ballrooms, a space as big as a three-room HDB apartment, to house the wardrobe and equipment for the shoot.
To keep his presence under wraps, Beckham moved around through a secret labyrinth of underground passageways in the hotel which are accessible only to hotel staff and emerged only when each scene had been fully set up.
The passageways were used to whisk equipment from one location to another while keeping it out of sight from visitors.
Beckham stayed in the hotel's luxury Straits suite for the three days of the shoot. Being a good sport, he did take a walk through the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in between takes and obliged lucky fans who spotted him with photo opportunities.
He said in a statement: "I really do love Marina Bay Sands, so I was thrilled to be part of the story for the Never Settle campaign. It really does celebrate an amazing destination."
This article was first published on March 11, 2015.
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