The World Cup is a few days away. Which brings the commercial side of the tournament to the fore. No, we do not mean the money. We mean the commercials. Football has seen some high-profile ad campaigns by big brands (Nike, Adidas and Pepsi have in particular really done great things with the Beautiful Game), ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, featuring some of the biggest names in the game. So as the 2018 World Cup ads hit the networks, here is football’s greatest Ad XI – 11 football-themed ads that were almost as sensational as the stars in them:
Cantona blows the Devil away
Darkness falls across the land. The world has to be saved from monsters. The fate of the world depends upon a football match, between the demonical side and a superstar football team including the likes of Ronaldo, Cantona, Maldini (who mutters “perhaps they are friendly” when he sees the devils – cue cynical eyebrow lift by Cantona), Kluivert and others. Humans show skill. Devils show brute force, aided by a blind referee (he even has dark glasses). Dogs bark on touchline. Our heroes fight back. Maldini tackles heroically, Ronaldo slaloms past evil defenders trying to decapitate him, and passes the ball to Eric Cantona who chests it down. And then pauses and raises his collar in trademark style and says “Au Revoir” as he hammers the ball…right through the chest of the Devilish goalkeeper, ending the rule of evil. Over the top. Unbelievable. Awesome and in our book, perhaps the greatest football ad of them all.
Ooh, is that Becks in armour?
Medieval Europe. Rogues and upstarts attack village/town and seize all the Pepsi (don’t ask, don’t ask!). Enter the heroic mercenaries including Beckham, Totti, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, to save the day and liberate the Pepsi. Who cares what happened to the village? But the sight of Beckham in armour an the baddies cowering in fear as they face a Roberto Carlos free kick really made this ad spectacular.
Beating the attack of them clones hilariously
One of the most creative ads in terms of presentation. This is an entire animation film which revolves around a scientist discovering that humans are just too unpredictable and decides that the sport should be henceforth be played by clones. The game becomes dull and routine, and the real stars are driven out of it. So Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) get the real human stars together and urges them to fight back. And this leads to an epic match between the clones and the real stars. The legends in animated form are amazing, Wayne Rooney working on the docks is cool, but Zlatan Ibrahamovich peddling his book is irresistible. A bit long but so so irreverent and funny. And you would have to be inhuman not to giggle whenever Neymar tries to get selfies or get goose pimpled when Cristiano Ronaldo says “too easy!” when faced by an empty goal, waits for defenders to get into place, and slaloms past them to score. Just amazing!
Rossi, Zidane get pardoned for their Brazilian crimes
Launched prior to the 2014 World Cup which was hosted in Brazil, the ad begins in a Brazilian haircutting saloon where a barber has just finished giving a customer a shave. The customer gives him his Visa card for payment and the barber realises that it is Paolo Rossi, the man who had been instrumental in dumping Brazil out of the 1982 World Cup with his hat-trick. Images of agony fly through his mind, as he recalls the humiliation, and even polishes his razor viciously. But then he finally smiles and taps the card, because he is the perfect host, even for those he hates – everyone is welcome in Brazil. Cue a tap on the door. And the next customer is Zinedine Zidane, the man responsible for Brazil’s defeats in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups. The barber mutters “Zidane”… but one assumes carries on being a great host.
Get that football back!
A football has been stolen by dastardly robotic villains (who for some reason dress up like something out of medieval Japan). What do you do? You send the world’s greatest footballers to rescue it, who enter a building and then pass, dribble and shoot their way past the football stealers. Edgar Davids and Luis Figo are just some of the stars in this quite amazing Matrix-meets-football ad.
It is a disease and it is catching…and it is hilarious!
Nike might be occupying the football advertising high ground. But Adidas has had its share of great ads too. But none has been as gently amusing as this one. “We have discovered a serious condition. We call it footballitis,” says an extremely serious looking professor. And then we are shown the victims of the disease. Cue Zidane doing keep uppy standing up without a ball, Beckham doing the same sitting on a chair (also without a ball), Collina bending like Michael Jackson and handing out cards, Barthez punching away invisible footballs. Oh and dachshunds playing football. Hilarious!
First person view of footy
Football from a first person perspective. You are a player. You start by getting fouled and being helped up by your teammates. You do better. You get signed by Arsenal. You struggle. You train. You throw up. You succeed. Wenger nods at you to go on. The girls want to kiss you. Cristiano Ronaldo blows you a cynical kiss. Heck, Cesc Fabregas actually kisses you. You play for Holland. You struggle. You succeed. You get fouled and get helped up by your teammates. You never see yourself. You are pretty damn amazing. As is the ad.
Sketch, pass, shoot
Super duper cute ad. Kaka sits and draws a cartoon of himself on the inside of an Adidas shoe box. So does Stevie Gerrard. The cartoons hop on to the screen and start playing football with each other. Enter a tiny third cartoon character, Lionel Messi. Messi and Kaka do tricks galore, even as Gerard watches. A bored Gerrard finally says “just give me the ball, mate” and taking the ball off a crazily spinning Messi, just thumps it. Simple, and yet so creative.
Just as awwwwsome as Messi as awesome
There were a number of Impossible is Nothing ads from Adidas featuring players from different sports, each of them tracing key events of their lives through cute drawings. But of the whole lot of them, the one of Lionel Messi was simply the most adorable. Was it because the little kid who had hormone problems in the sketch looked ultra sweet or was it the line “I learnt to play with the ball on the ground because that’s where it felt most comfortable”? We don’t know. We just know that by the time Messi scribbles “Impossible is Nothing” (a ghastly line – it is a lot of things, including Scotland winning the World Cup), one just felt a rush of sentiment.
Friends? What friends? The Suarez-Messi breakup
We have already seen a number of football oriented ads for the 2018 World Cup and frankly, we think most of them are on largely predictable, larger than life, over the top lines. But Gatorade has come out with an amazingly funny ad, featuring real life teammates and friends, Lionel Messi and Lusi Suarez. The duo, generally inseparable while paying together at Barcelona, become sworn enemies as a tournament called the Football Frenzy (the World Cup, we suspect) comes closer. The ad has the whole works – competing on fitness apps (drinking Gatorade all the time), unfollowing on Instagram, “it’s complicated” relationship changes, the works. It is brilliant and ends with both stars leading their teams out on the pitch, swigging Gatorade because while everything else changes, what’s inside does not.
A Frenchman in an Italian restaurant
Zinedine Zidane walks into a restaurant in Italy even as match between Italy and France is being telecast on the television. France score and Zidane exults. And then notices that everyone in the restaurant – including Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro – is deadly quiet and staring at him. Food and drink are slapped rudely in front of him, amidst significant gestures between the cook and waiter. Then Italy score and the mood changes and everyone is suddenly celebrating and delighted, and Zidane’s food and drink are replaced (was the previous one poisoned? You never know – there is a Godfather types in the room). As he makes his payment using a Visa card, France are awarded a penalty. Zidane smiles but is careful not to touch the cookies in front of him. Subtle, classy and so capturing the ebbs and flows of a football match and the effect they have on its spectators.