Greenpeace dumps oil on Rugby World Cup in new campaign

The environmental organisation is tackling sportswashing ahead of the tournament with an animated campaign film showing the Stade de France drenched in oil

After coming together to call out the government’s plastic waste record back in 2021, Greenpeace has enlisted Studio Birthplace for another takedown. This time, the environmental organisation has set its sights on the Rugby World Cup, which is sponsored by oil and gas company TotalEnergies.

According to research, the rate at which the global fossil fuel industry extracts oil would allow it to fill the Stade de France in Paris (which will host ten matches in this year’s RWC) in three hours and 37 minutes.

Studio Birthplace and the team at production company Park Village took a literal approach to representing the statistic in its new campaign for Greenpeace. Narrated by comedian Seán Burke in the style of rugby commentary, TotalPollution: A Dirty Game shows the stadium filled with eerie, unmoving figures – similar to those in the studio’s Wasteminster campaign – who are wiped out by an oily downpour.

“By employing humour and satire, we aim to engage viewers in a way that captivates their attention while also encouraging them to reflect on the gravity of the issue,” explain Studio Birthplace creative directors Jorik Dozy and Sil van der Woerd. “We used the camera and oil simulations in similar ways you would see in a Hollywood action scene to hook viewers and deliver an entertaining watch.”

The effect is reminiscent of Studio Birthplace’s film for Woolmark, which aimed to dissuade people from buying crude oil-heavy synthetic fabrics by showing human figures drenched in a sticky liquid.

The CG element was produced under the guidance of VFX supervisor Tim Smit, and took around three months to complete. “We created a faithful replica of Stade de France, where, just like in our film, the first game of the Rugby World Cup will be played between France and New Zealand on September 8. We populated the stadium with a crowd of 80,000 mannequins and two rugby teams,” they explain.

“The biggest challenges were the massive oil simulations that had to dynamically interact with the crowds and players. Some of the simulations contained north of 1.5 billion voxels (3D pixels), which required lots of computing power and patience. Through very precise planning and digital storyboarding the team was able to complete these massive simulations within the deadline and with a very minimal crew.”

The campaign draws attention to the issue of sportswashing – which involves a nation or organisation hiding their questionable practices (typically social or environmental) behind the fanfare and feel-good factor of sport – something pretty much all global sporting events in recent years have played a part in.

“Through associating themselves with these popular sports they pull the focus away from the undeniable major ecological harm they cause [to] communities and ecosystems worldwide,” the creative directors add. “This film exposes this dirty reality.”;