With global viewership hovering around a billion, the looming World Cup – like the Super Bowl – presents an opportune time for companies to roll out pricey, well thought out ad campaigns to get folks spending. As the dominant (and competing) on-pitch kit and boot sponsors, Nike and adidas have traditionally tapped into their roster of footballing talent for star-studded TV spots that often times rival the matches themselves in their ability to inspire, amaze and get folks off their lazy butts to have a kick-around.
Unfortunately, a lack of big names in the Brazil team (no fat Ronaldo, past-his-prime
Jar-Jar Ronaldinho, or alchy Adriano this time around) has limited Nike’s ability to showcase some of its most captivating talent, instead relying on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney for the clever, yet less spectacular current campaign, “Write The Future.” So, here’s a reflection on the Swoosh’s memorable campaigns of years past.
“The Next Level” (2008) — Guy Ritchie’s best work since Snatch, this extended spot put the viewer in the boots of an unnamed Dutch attacker, as you rose from academy obscurity to the Arsenal first team. Taking place on the pitch, you were thus at the mercy of Materazzi tackles and Ronaldo feints.
“The Duel” (2006) — A reimagining of the MJ-Bird McDonald’s spot, this matchup didn’t need any tricky editing, just Cristiano and Zlatan’s showmanship.
“Never Grow Up” (2006) — Ronaldinho at his most awe-inspiring: as a kid. And the headed roll-in at the end introduced us to the most disrespectful pick-up game finish.
“Brasil Team” (2006) — Yet another Joga Bonito spot from the last World Cup. Offering a glimpse inside the Brazilian locker room, the last golden generation of Samba Boys (the aforementioned trio, plus Roberto Carlos, Robinho, and Kaka), Sergio Mendes, and yes, Will.I.Am, all combine to make beautiful music.
“Ole” (2004) — Proof that the elegantly smooth “Papa Loves Mambo” is the perfect song (for a soccer commercial) and Ronaldinho’s elastico is the perfect move. The cameos from United legends Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy weren’t a bad touch either.
“The Airport” (1998) — Beyond capturing the Brazilians at their entertaining best, the ad’s conclusion would foreshadow Brazil and Ronaldo’s shortcomings in the ’98 final. Sidenote: Before there was Ronaldinho, there was Denilson.
“Good v. Evil” (1996) — Absolutely ridiculous in retrospect—a sign of the times.
“The Cage” (2002) — The perfect concept: a 3-on-3 tournament featuring the world’s best at the time (Henry, Davids, Totti, Thuram, the usual Brazilian suspects, etc.) It also marked the first time a Nike soccer advert canonized a song, the JXL remix of “A Little Less Conversation.” Really though, Nike could run this back every year.