The 2014 World Cup will soon be over, which means no more World Cup commercials for another four years. But fear not, because below you’ll find the 10 finest World Cup commercials that were ever put on film and broadcast around the globe.
Pepsi has long crossed the Nike vs. Adidas battle lines to collect football’s best talent and force them into curious marketing situations, and their 2006 Bavaria ad is the height of their well-meaning absurdity. Such luminaries as David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho and Frank Lampard donned Pepsi kits and engaged in a test of skill against a tentful of lederhosed German men and curvaceous beer-gals for the right the drink soda from giant beer steins-you know, like Bavarians do.
1. Roberto Carlos forgetting that he can’t use his hands, the clutz.
2. The incredibly low stakes-watch as Pepsi’s player ambassadors really only half-try to get that soft drink. Everyone is really phoning it in.
3. Ronnie getting braids.
4. Obligatory shirtless Becks. He’s the game’s most talented torso.
From the windblown and rocky plains of Campemento Esperanza in Chile, everyone’s favorite hero mine collapse survivors give a rousing team talk to their national team before this year’s World Cup. Banco de Chile is helping them to collect the dirt around the area’s mine to take with the team to Brazil, where players will mix it into milk like Ovaltine or something, and channel the indomitable spirit of the miners and a hopeful nation. This is only partly necessary, as Gary Medel is already 90 percent grit.
1. The implication that the Netherlands is tough. Never has there been a group of preening and catty glassine egos been roped together. They can’t even get through a training without a schoolyard strop.
2. It’s legitimately quite moving throughout.
ESPN were lucky enough to catch Ian Darke moonlighting as a commentator for OKCupid dates at a restaurant, and we got this wonderful 2014 ad. The voices in the booth don’t get enough starring roles in advertising-blame Richard Keys and Andy Gray-and it’s a pleasure to get something other than an agency attempting an overproduced Nike commercial-facsimile. More of this, please.
1. The way Ian Darke says ‘firecracker’. If Ian Darke called me a firecracker, I couldn’t help but swoon.
2. “Do you own books?”
3. The complete absence of Alexi Lalas.
I’m going to head pedantic commenters off at the pass-no, this was not a World Cup commercial-but Nike’s Euro 96 ‘Good and Evil’ commercial is so good, they could trot it out every two years and no one would complain. Some of the era’s best take on a team of truly horrifying demons-seriously, peep the makeup work-and of course, start of by having a rough go of it. After a Maldini(!) intervention, and some smart handles by Ronaldo, Cantona pops the collar and burns one through the winged keeper. It will set the tone and expectations for Nike’s long and golden run of high-concept summer tournament ads.
1. Irrepressibly optimistic Maldini.
2. Ian Wright taking a MASSIVE headbutt. Rub some dirt on it, lad.
3. Figo in a Barcelona shirt, it feels right.
The USMNT are no longer underdogs. Years of steady thinkpieces chronicling the rise of American soccer, and three consecutive knockout round runs have established America as a legitimate contender. But in 2006, in the early shaking steps of their rise, Gatorade skillfully encapsulated a narrative of an American team fighting their way to prominence. With a nod to a national audience still greatly indifferent to soccer, quiet strings and a soulful piano score scenes of a unified team playing heads-held-high through every sort of opposition with ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’. It’s patriotic without being patronizing, and it speaks with an authenticity that most marketing can only ape.
1. Landon Donovan has most of his hair, and is still on the team.
2. Timmy Howard carrying the team’s Gatorade jugs feels both human and iconic, like the scene in Lincoln where the President sits wrapped in a blanket telling stories to two young telegraph operators.
3. Stu Holden running upright.
For the 2006 World Cup, Adidas realized the fantasy of being gently whispered to by Zinedine Zidane for the latin street child in all of us. Their ‘José +10’ commercial was an all-star backyard game of soccer replete with the day’s stars-Cissé, Zidane, Lampard, Becks-who played at the beckoning of the young whelps alongside youthful incarnations of Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini, manifesting their unblemished past-selves like Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy. It’s a pleasing tribute to all of our kickabout imaginations where Arjen Robben flops over our outstretched foot.
1. Jose’s unnamed young opponent picked Messi for his side, who apparently never showed-the scamp-but he exorcised his frustration by making Jermaine Defoe play in goal, which was a foreshadowing to his relegation to the reserves on England’s 2014 squad.
2. Robben’s full head of hair. I actually don’t believe it’s real, but instead a wig made from David Beckham’s shaved cornrows.
3. KAKA SUBBED FOR DAMIEN DUFF
Nike, in a fit of typical bombast, hired Terry Gilliam to direct their 2002 ‘Secret Tournament’ commercial, and it is the Time Bandits of World Cup commercials-a crazed masterpiece. The Premise: A cane-wielding Eric Cantona has kidnapped everyone good at soccer (who is sponsored by Nike) and pits them against each other in a three-on-three tournament inside the hulk of an ageing freighter. You can scope out the insanely comprehensive Wikipedia entry for the spot, which covers all the teams (including bonkers names) and the progression of the tournament-my favorite is Ronaldinho, Denilson, and Seoul Ki-Hyeon’s ‘Funk Seoul Brothers’. Cantona prowls across the roof of a rusty cage wherein the stars fight it out (for their lives?), while Elvis’ ‘A Little Less Conversation’ plays over the proceedings. The follow-up rematch spot finishes with a Luis Figo goal sinking the ship. As I said, masterpiece.
1. The commercial’s alternate title is Scorpion KO guitar riff.
2. Ronnie fixing his curls in the mirrored surface of a Nike ball.
3. Roberto Carlos with the ‘you flinched’ psych-out.
4. Francesco Totti’s conditioner.
Adidas’s 2002 World Cup series was an absurdist concept of hapless foreign scientists studying the various manic compulsions of the game’s heroes. Swedish directing collective Traktor seem to have pulled off the world’s greatest prank by getting high paid and extraordinarily talented professional footballers to come in and do goofy things while lumpy unattractive science-types prodded them. It’s a coup for all of us. There’s even puppies scoring a fantastic team-goal. The whole thing is totally weird, and we should thank Adidas with a letter-writing campaign.
1. Pierluigi Collina doing the Michael Jackson Lean.
2. It really can’t get much better than Pierluigi Collina doing the Michael Jackson lean you greedy bastards.
Almost the polar opposite of the ‘Footballitis’ campaign, Nike’s ‘Write the Future’ is a beautiful and polished Marvel What If story. Combining the kingmaking capabilities of World Cup success, and the pariah outcomes for failure, Nike extrapolates the possibilities for their superstars for their performances. Fabio Cannavaro’s clearance of Drogba’s shot earns him an extravagent song and dance serenade on a late-night show. Wayne Rooney’s misplaced pass practically destroys the English state, and forces him to a fat-bellied life as a bearded groundskeeper living in a gypsy caravan-whereas his defensive recovery from Ribery gets him a knighthood and ping pong with Federer. Ronaldinho’s stepovers go viral, and Cristiano gets a Simpsons appearance for his footwork, while a freekick goal may earn him the giant statue his frothing ego has always desired. It’s Nike’s homage to the rise and fall of sporting heroes.
1. Smug Landon Donovan
2. Queen Elizabeth recoiling in horror from Rooney’s hug, as we all would.
3. Andrés Iniesta attempting to show disgust, as if he is even capable of a negative emotion.
Nike’s 1998 ‘Airport’ commercial is the undisputed champion of World Cup commercials. Personalizing a team of soccer-gods with a portrayal as youthful and creative entertainers-players who love the game of football so much, that they fill the tedium of travel between football with football. The world is their pitch: the gleaming floors of the terminal, the textured moving-sidewalk. The security staff and fellow travellers are frustrated defenders, and the planes on the tarmac provide the appreciative audience of who? Eric Cantona. Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, and Roberto Carlos dance their way across the expanse of an airport to the bossanova sounds of Sérgio Mendes’ ‘Mas que Nada’. The commercial shared the grinning Brazilians with the world, crystallizing their identity as the playful artists of football.
1. Cafu’s face at 0:49
2. Jackets tied around waists
3. Ronaldo misses, it’s a great tag to a great commercial
4. Now carries a layer of “remember how we were” pathos, thanks to Brazil’s 7-1 capitulation to Germany.