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Special Project

Special Project
From the 14th Annual Shorty Awards

Ingenious by Pollinate in collaboration with Mastercard

Entered in Financial Services


The past 24 months have been especially challenging for small businesses (SMEs) – the wave of COVID-19 disruption, economic slowdown and community crises have disproportionately impacted them. But many have also responded with great ingenuity – from local shop to local delivery service, making masks not mats, and connecting with the needs of their community in new ways – as only local businesses can.

This competition worked to uncover and shared the stories of SMEs all over the world who adapted using digital tools in the face of COVID-19 and its wider economic and social impact. We asked filmmakers and SMEs to create short 2-3 min films with the potential to win up to $10,000. We wanted to raise the profile of local initiatives that often are overlooked by mainstream media, while offering free educational and digital resources for SMEs. To support the SMEs featured in these films, we provided free access to tools, education, and insights to empower them to thrive beyond the pandemic through the Mastercard Digital Acceleration Program.


Strategy and Execution

The idea for the competition was developed in November 2020 by Pollinate and Mastercard, focused on enabling better ways to source real, authentic stories about SMEs and how crucial they are to local communities, particularly under the shadow of COVID-19.

The work used the concept of ‘crowdsourcing stories’ from SMEs in a creative and inspiring way. Planning and preparations took 5 months, during which:

Ingenious was launched on the International Day for SMEs and ran for 6 weeks before submissions were closed. During this time, organic and paid social campaigns ran to increase awareness amongst the target audiences:

  1. Filmmakers: professional, semi-pro, students and enthusiasts.
  2. SMEs owners and managers, no matter the industry. 

Our strategy focused on tapping into Zooppa’s creative network, plus paid US, UK and International filmmaker media (such as Little Black Book and NoFilmSchool). We reached out to universities and colleges with film schools via social media, and press releases geared toward a global audience via Mastercard and Pollinate.

Once all submissions were received, organic social posts ran on Ingenious own channels showcase the films submitted and judges selected the most well-made and inspiring films.

Top 10 winning films were announced on 1 September 2021, used in their local countries to spread the message of SMEs resilience and innovation, and how digital tools helped them in their journey. This competition showcased the importance of empowering SMEs across the world through digital enablement linking back to Mastercard’s suite of digital solutions and their free resources. The competition was able to not only source stories but to leverage Mastercard’s brand awareness in relation to small business solutions.


  1. Management of the competition and campaign was undertaken by a small Pollinate marketing team, alongside normal marketing activities. A key challenge was scaling the campaign internationally, managing the complexities of multiple stakeholders, and activation across different geographies.
  2. Engaging the filmmaking community was hard as a team usually focused on B2B marketing to bank executives. Zooppa provided a wide network of creatives and experience running similar campaigns. Local Mastercard teams pitched the competition to local press and helped create a buzz to encourage entries.
  3. Low budget and low resources for campaign. Most of promotion was done in-house with a team of two people running this project. Dedication and enthusiasm of these people paid off with such a great collection of SME stories.



Ingenious was created to convey positive messages given the difficult last couple of years. It is aimed at raising brand affinity for Mastercard and Pollinate with SMEs’ ingenuity, while promoting awareness of their struggles and celebrating successes, hoping to inspire many more small businesses. The competition was created and run by a very small team, with support from Mastercard, that performed at a high level and proved the viability of the idea — that will now go on to inspire many other filmmakers and small businesses around the world, with an anticipated 2022 campaign already in planning.


Video for Ingenious by Pollinate in collaboration with Mastercard

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Pollinate in collaboration with Mastercard


Entry Credits