I’m 28-years-old, born and raised just outside Amsterdam, a loyal Nike customer and very passionate about soccer. Some of my greatest memories in life revolve around a season, game or goal, so when I first saw this new Nike ad for the World Cup Soccer 2010 – described by the brand itself as one of their best ads ever – I got excited. This was about a global sporting event that makes my blood run faster.
And, to this expat at least, they delivered. Nike did their homework. The ad brings the energy, passion and competition of soccer closer to us. Not coincidentally produced by Babel director Alejandro González Iñárritu, it shows us how the game and its outcome are connected to popular culture and societies around the world.
Many, especially soccer-clueless Americans I am sure, will think that a lot of what Nike shows here is just exaggerated entertainment. In reality, Nike understands that for many of us around the world, soccer is not just a game, it’s life.
Take the first scene with Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast, successful in the English Premier League and one of the biggest African stars playing in this tournament. Never before has an African team been able to secure victory of the World Cup. Now that the event is organized in South Africa, supporters from the African countries have high expectations. A victory by one of the African teams would be historic, writing the future for soccer and perhaps even the country itself. Nike lets us imagine a future in which an Ivory Coast win unites a country divided by civil wars.
But then Fabio Cannavaro, who won the World Cup with Italy four years ago, removes the ball with a bicycle kick just before it passes the line. The images of Italy’s celebration are realistic; with their nation’s motto of Fare una bella figura, everything is about style and show. Nothing noteworthy on television, including soccer programs, happens without sexy women walking or dancing around.
After that, England’s scene with Wayne Rooney features the country’s fanatic and relentless supporters. English player and coach Bill Shankly once famously said “Some people think football is a matter of life and death … I can assure them it is much more serious than that.” Although Rooney’s walk of shame is shown here with some typical British humor, to understand how close this is to reality is to understand the gravity of David Beckham’s red card in the 1998 World Cup, which led to a loss against arch rival Argentina. The loss was blamed on Beckham, and he went home public enemy #1. The Daily Mirror wrote “10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy” on its back page, while the Daily Star used the headline “What An Idiot.” In Nike’s ad Rooney fortunately stops Franck Ribery from other arch rival France, resulting in his conversion from villain to hero.
While following Brazil’s Ronaldinho’s slick ‘scissors’ trick seems like fiction, the truth is that Brazilians always try to add some samba to their soccer game. His fellow Brazilian Kerlon Moura Souza is known for the Seal Dribble, which all together got more than 5 million YouTube views – and kids at home try to copy and use this move in their own games.
And although Ronaldinho won’t be present at the World Cup this year, referring to the role the Internet plays nowadays is a smart way for Nike to address the incredible social media revolution that has happened since the last World Cup in 2006. More will be viewed, liked and shared online than ever before. And if Nike truly understands how the media landscape has changed, it would take this opportunity to use the Write The Future theme to further involve consumers given the highly engaging and social space it has entered.
And that brings me to my only criticism I have about this ad. Nike intelligently promotes its brand and connects it to today’s passionate world of soccer, however, the emphasis is on the individual athlete; symbolized by the potential personal recognition and fame Cristiano Ronaldo receives at the end of the spot. Although Nike’s brand is known to stand for individual self-actualization, soccer is about the team — the connections between the players and the crowd, and fan community. But it might just be my socio-cultural background. Either way, we welcome the Americans into this space – and look forward to connecting if not on the field, then in the network!
For an American perspective on this same Nike ad, read From America, With Love by Brian Canning.
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