The best World Cup ads of all time

The best World Cup ads of all time

In just two weeks, the Fifa World Cup is back, kicking off in host nation Russia. As fever pitch escalates, so too will the clamour made by brands cashing in on the globe's biggest sporting event. We jump back and look at some ads of bygone years that still resonate today.

It's little surprise that the brands that create the most memorable commercials around the World Cup tend to be top tier sponsors with huge marketing coffers. There are exceptions, but for the most part the best ads come from the sportswear giants — namely Nike and Adidas battling it out, with Nike typically coming out on top. Also vying for attention are the sugary beverages, purveyors of fast-food and brewers, aligning their brands with both celebration, and somewhat tenuously, sporting prowess.

While the England team's prowess has historically been lacklustre on the pitch, the UK is an indubious winner when it comes to winning World Cup ads. Here we revisit some home-spun ads, as well as some gems from other countries.


Nike — "The last game"

This epic five-minute sport created by Wieden & Kennedy Portland depicts a world in which footballers have been replaced by passionless clones who may make "flawless" decisions but lack the flair to win.

Opening in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the ad follows Ronaldo and Cristiano Ronaldo, who prove to the world that "there's not greater danger than playing it safe".

Beats by Dre — "The game before the game"

Dr Dre's headphones brand beat the restrictions faced by a non-sponsor brand with this pithy, beautifully shot and sountracked R/GA London-created campaign. Starring Neymar Jr, the film starts with the Brazilian footballer getting a pep talk from his father before donning a pair of headphones. Cue the music and a tour of the world, where celebrity fans and players prepare for games.

Kudos to Beats for creating one of the most memorable World Cup ads in 2014 without even being able to utter the words "world" and "cup" in close proximity. Beats even produced a David Hasselhoff spoof of its own film, while at the tournament's end, the winning German team were each given a pair of 24-carat gold headphones.


Mars — "Singing for England"

This ad is definitely veering into "so bad it's good" territory, and has the added bonus of knowing it's a bit crap.

Twenty years after New Order allowed John Barnes to rap on its 1990 World Cup anthem World in Motion, Barnes revisits his scatting, dancing persona.

The ad starts with Barnesy in a London park, putting a Mars-branded cassette into a ghetto-blaster. The track starts and so does Barnes, clapping his hands and dancing cheesily. As he delivers lines such as, "You've got to hold and give, but do it at the right time" in dad-style rap, the viewer is forced to decide between cringing at or submitting to its charms.

Carlsberg "Team talk"

This Saatchi & Saatchi spot for Carlsberg was designed to stir up national support for the England team ahead of the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

"Make no mistake," declaims the voiceover delivering a team pep talk that emulates the fervour of Henry V's address to his troops in Shakespeare's famous play. "It's you. Eleven men. Eleven English men against the rest of the world. A world that can't wait to dump you out and rub your noses in it...

"So be strong, do it for your country, do it for the fans, for Bobby..." at which point there is a brief silence and pause in the action as a tribute to Bobby Robson.

The rhetoric becomes increasingly forthright as the team leave the changing rooms, moving nearer to the imminent action, surrounded by famous fan faces including Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Ellen MacArthur and Ian Botham. "We haven't come here to be tourists. Men of England, it's time to join the immortals."

The ad ends with a hot of a majestic lion at the top of the tunnel as the players ascend the stairs to enter the field. For all the fire in this film's belly, though, England's performance in 2010 was woeful.


Carlsberg — "Old lions"

In this Saatchi & Saatchi-made ad, England footballing heroes Sir Bobby Charlton and Bryan Robson put together "probably the best pub team in the world", a line that plays on the beer brand's famous slogan.

The ad opens with Jack Charlton driving his team in a dilapidated van to a muddy old football pitch, where the legendary likes of Peter Shilton, Des Walker, Chis Waddle and Peter Beardsley are to play for the Old Lion pub team. The shocked reactions of their opponents - a real-life squad of amateurs from the Dog & Duck - when they see the legends they are up against are genuine.

Adidas — "Jose +10"

Across the Atlantic in Brazil, a pair of young boys are putting together an imaginary dream team that becomes reality, as they are joined by players including Zidane, Lampard and Beckham. In the midst of the kinetic play, one of the boys' mothers calls him in for tea and the action comes to an end.

The ad, which was created by 180 Amsterdam, could have been bombastic and cliched. But the way it's shot, the charm of the boys and the soundtrack are a few of the elements that elevate this above standard fare.


Adidas -— "Footballitis"

With Beckham and Zidane lined up to star, Adidas could have opted for a run-of-the-mill commercial with players demonstrating ball skills framed against a contrived narrative backdrop. But 2002's "Footballitis" instead shot World Cup advertising in the arm with a heavy dose of quirk.

"We have discovered a serious condition," a drab-looking moustached man tells an audience at the Institute for the Study of Footballitis. "We call it footballitis."

It's not made entirely clear what symptoms sufferers of footballitis experience (the film admits this) but they involve Beckham without ball jiggling his legs sitting on a chair and even small, footie-adept terriers who attract the whistle-blowing fury of bald-pated referee Piero Luigi Vigna.

"There is no cure, but we are working on an ointment," says the moustachioed man, wielding a tubof gloop. The spot was created by 180, Amsterdam and distributed and adapted via the TBWA network.

Pepsi — "Sumo"

In "Sumo", Pepsi pitches corpulent Japanese fighters against an all-star cast of footballers, including Beckham, Raul, Buffon and Costa. The action starts with six imposing sumo wrestlers approaching the Japan World Cup training camp, peering menacingly over the fencing at the players, before entering the arena. "So, what are we playing for?" Beckham asks. One of the sumo wrestlers answers: "Pepsi."

The game starts ane ends badly for the World Cup squad. The goal-blocking bulk of the wrestlers, their superior height for heading and surprising agility mean that they pummel the team of all-stars. The ad ends with them departing the field triumphant, wearing the shirts of Beckham and his team mates, carrying a cool-box of Pepsi. "Amateurs," grunts one.


Nike "Airport"

Brazil players including Ronaldo, Romario and Cafu seriously annoy security guards at Rio de Janeiro airport by irresponsibly, if spectacularly, holding a game of football that takes viewers on a tour of the airport.

The action starts in the enclosed surroundings of the terminal, but soon sees the ball being kicked through X-ray machines, across the path of a taxiing plane (much to the surprise of passenger Eric Cantona), through the tunnels of the baggage conveyors and across the cabin of a helicopter.

At the climax, Ronaldo goes for goal — aiming between two metal bollards. He shoots, hits a post, misses. The ad was created by Wieden & Kennedy and directed my action maestro John Woo.


McDonald's — "Practice makes perfect"

Thirteen-year-old Scott Parker — who later became a professional footballer — plays Jimmy, a boy who demonstrates his amazing keepie-uppie skills in the back garden.

His play is interrupted by his mother. "Jimmy, we're off to McDonald's," she calls. He stops playing and the viewer is clearly meant to expect him to go off with his family for some sedentary burger eating.

But Jimmy/Scott recommences his ball skills and the voiceover says: "This commercial is dedicated to all those who know what practice makes. And that McDonald's do takeaways."


Coca-Cola — "Drink Coke"

In 1982, Diego Maradona was one of the world's biggest sporting stars, for many fans blessed by the hand of god but not yet the self-proclaimed "hand of god" he would become four years later when he handballed his team to victory against England.

Given his stature, Coca-Cola nabbed him for this spot in which the post-match Argentinian limps, dejected down the stadium tunnel stairs. He is accosted by a young boy proffering a bottle of Coke.

Initially refusing it, he eventually takes the drink, necks it. The boy goes to leave, despondent, before Maradona calls him back and throws him his sweaty shirt.

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