Back when I was a fresh-faced young scally-me-lad, when TV was less 3D HD and more GMTV. Before Lost and 24 were the school yard water cooler moments (not that my school, or any other school for that matter even had a water-cooler), one of the greatest and simplest televisual pleasures of the summer was your first glimpse at the new expensively produced, star studded, over the top football advert. In recent years they’ve died down a bit in melodrama, but since the early 90s, both Nike, their rival Adidas – and quite bizarrely teeth rotting fizzy poison peddlers Pepsi – have kept us easily distracted and manipulated couch potatoes happy with a slew of imaginative soccer spots. Pepsi have been the first to tackle this year’s Coupe du Monde, with an effort that manages to seem both patronizing and dull, whilst attempting to be unifying and joyous. So as we wait for the giant evil corporate sportswear manufacturers to enter the arena, lets look back on the best of the previous efforts in what is often, and accurately called, a fluff piece. Only the top 5 are realistically in any kind of order.
10. The Wall. (Nike) – In what was essentially the first real attempt to bring the expensive showbiz element of American sport to the global monster that is football, Nike welcomed in 1994 with an inspired montage of billboards having a kick around. In what become the staple of the genre, an ensemble cast from around the globe including future brand talisman Eric Cantona, wilfully wreaked havoc on various major cities by kicking great big ruddy holes out of their buildings.
9. Park-Life (Nike). – Only shown in the UK, this loving tribute to the grass roots game was filmed on Hackney Marshes and consisted of the big names of the day slugging it out with Dean and Barry from the pub, all set to blur. Lovely Jubbley.
8. ‘Av It (John Smiths). – A simple paean to the route one in us all, Peter Kay breaks up the skill school with a hoof to make Sam Allardyce all misty eyed. Does exactly what it says on the tin. No Nonsense
7. Medieval (Pepsi) – In a Ludicrous advert, and essentially a copy of Nike’s seminal Good vs Evil, David Beckham continues to fulfill his dressing up fantasies as his band of oddly gladiatorially dressed superstars save a small town’s Pepsi supply from the evil invading hoards. Only marginally better than their previous “cowboys” effort, mainly because Becks doesn’t get to speak in this one. Whilst watching it you may ask yourself, why do the bad guys even bother following the ball?
6. Jose 10+ (Adidas) – After racking my brain and scouring the internet desperately to try and find an Adidas candidate worthy of preventing this list from becoming a singular marketing exorcize for Nike (though if any Nike executives are reading this, I’m open to the idea) the Jose 10 + stood out. The simple idea of two little kids picking their favorite players for a kick about strikes a chord with anyone whose ever wished they had Zidane and Becks to choose from instead of fat Kev, wheezy Jonny and that kid who’s mum made you pick him because you flicked ink on his shirt the other week in French. Jermain Defoe plays the unpopular kid, as Adidas wheel out a CGI Michel Platini rather than let him play outfield.
5. The Cage (Nike) – Eric Cantona kidnaps the world’s best Nike endorsed footballers and forces them to play a three a side battle royal on a freighter whilst being psychologically tortured by endless Elvis Presley.
4. Pub Team (Carlsberg) – A lovingly crafted nostalgia fest as the great and the good of English talent throughout the years are re-imagined as the late Sir Bobby Robson’s Sunday League side. Witty, personable, charming, and worth it alone for the sight of Peter Beardsley on a bicylce.
3. Take it to the Next Level (Nike) – Guy Richie’s 2008 effort is the best offering from Nike in yonks. Stylish, cool and satisfyingly free of mockney gangsters or Madonna, the simple yet brilliant concept of “the first person life of a footballer” follows Arsene Wenger’s grooming of a young Dutch boy through to his International debut.
2. Good vs Evil (Nike) – The ad that inspired me to spend hours in the garden trying to do that thing Ronaldo does, Good vs Evil was a showstopper when it was released in 1996. Over the top production values combined with the natural charisma of it’s star, blended to make a ridiculously fun football ad that saw King Eric’s select XI face the minions of hell in the ruins of the colosseum. The iconic collar popping aurevoir climax made lunch time kick abouts arduous as everyone attempted to trap the ball for the one liner when through on the keeper. Helpfully for said keeper though, they then hit it straight at him. Ian Wright gets head butted, which is a great source of comfort for anyone who’s ever watched Live from Studio Five.
1. Airport (Nike) – If any thing could sum up the joyous, carefree, smile on your face skillful aesthetics of the Brazilian national football team in 1 minute and 30 seconds, it’s this. A sheer joy of exuberance, improvisation and melody set to an infectious samba jazz beat. The ad was made in the run up to the 98 World Cup when Ronaldo was the greatest player on the planet and still had a sportsman’s waist line. The beautiful game at it’s finest. Mas Que Nada.
Special mentions to Ole, The Mission and that one where Thierry Henry dribbles round his house who failed to make it in simply by virtue of all being Nike. Sadly, footage of Ryan Giggs as a flower seller couldn’t be found.