Inside the Campaign: Nissan’s Diehard Fan by Critical Mass

The 4A’s is committed to showcasing creative work done by its member agencies through its Inside the Campaign feature. Here Critical Mass, based in Calgary, Canada and with offices in 12 cities, helped put game faces on Nissan’s Diehard Fans.

How Critical Mass created an augmented-reality face-paint app to help Nissan celebrate its unprecedented sponsorship of collegiate sports.

Project Description

If you’re a diehard college sports fan, then you’re always on the lookout for an awesome way to express your fanaticism. The Diehard Fan App lets you do just that—by layering eye-popping, professionally painted digital designs directly on your face. With Diehard fan, you can get your game face on, share a pic or a video, and show the world you’re a fun-loving college sports fanatic.

The Challenge

When our Nissan client undertook the widest-reaching sponsorship in the history of collegiate sports, we saw an opportunity to create something revolutionary. Inspired by diehard fans who wear their fanaticism (literally) on their faces, we designed the Diehard Fan App. It’s a real-time digital face painting app that lets anyone put on a game face and unleash their inner fanatic, anytime, anywhere.

The Diehard Experience

In the app, you can select your favorite NCAA team’s colors and then watch as Diehard Fan uses your device’s camera to layer the design directly on your face. Because the app tracks with your movements in real-time, you can snap a picture, or record your best cheer, chant, or fight song (and share it everywhere, of course).

To make sure our virtual face painting experience was truly mind-blowing, we started with the real thing. As a team of professional artists hand-painted the faces of human models, we captured their best creations with advanced face-tracking technology and built a repository of designs. Each design was then digitally face-mapped to ensure a level of realism that seems nearly magical, resulting in a professional-grade, augmented reality face paint experience.

Overnight Success, New Possibilities

Within two weeks, Diehard Fan soared to the #1 spot in the App Store’s Sports category. It also became more than just an app—we scaled it into a marketing activation platform that entirely redefined “sponsorship”—one that’s geared toward the authenticity of fans, rather than star athletes. Nissan and our agency partners rallied around the idea and followed our lead with media buys, stadium events, pre-roll spots, in-dealership support, social and more. The platform can hyper-localize (campus by campus, team by team), thrive on any channel (newsfeeds and Jumbotrons alike), and is ripe for massive expansion to global-level events (and yes, big plans are in the works).

Results to Date

  • Number one Sports App in the Apple Store within two weeks of launch
  • 100 million impressions
  • Over 35 million facepaints tried on
  • 3 million photos and videos taken
  • 2 million shares
  • More than 10 minutes average time spent with the app


Conor Brady, Critical Mass, Chief Creative Officer

Steve Savic, Critical Mass, Executive Creative Director

Chrissie Graboski, Critical Mass, Group Strategy Director

Jordon Mowbray, Critical Mass, Group Creative Director

Kerry Janes, Critical Mass, Strategy Director

Peter von Sass, Critical Mass, Copy Director

Masanori Benno, Critical Mass, Creative Director

Darren Wood, Critical Mass, Art Director

Martine Lavoie, Critical Mass, Art Director

Jordan Natyshen, Critical Mass, Art Director

Andrzej Milosz, Critical Mass, Art Director

Javier Olivares, Critical Mass, Designer

Jon Temple, Critical Mass, Designer

Victoria Williams, Critical Mass, Designer

Zhen Huang, Critical Mass, Designer

Tomoki Iwamoto, Critical Mass, Designer

Annie Tat, Critical Mass, User Experience Architect

Cara Woo, Critical Mass, Project Manager

Alissa Hansen, Critical Mass, Executive Producer

Lucie Brouillard, Face Painter