You hear it quite a lot these days, that consumerism and the modern world has killed off that sense of honesty and fun about football. For the most part, I’d largely agree with that sentiment, it has unequivocally. However, playing devil’s advocate here, has it brought us anything good?
I think it has. The very thing we often bemoan as we surf the world wide web or queue up a YouTube video to show someone, may actually be one of the best things it’s given the game. Yes, I’m talking ads! Although footballer endorsements and using football to advertise commercial enterprises is no new thing, far from it in fact - *takes notes* blog idea on the splendour of printed ads. Graeme Souness advertising Irn Bru? Or Aberdeen’s squad sporting Ray Bans for an optician. The skill and execution of these ads have an undeniable sense of fun, hence why we’ve rounded up some of our favourites from over the years as we dive down this particular rabbit hole.
Check 'em out below!
Wieden + Kennedy for Nike Football 1996
It seems only right to start things off with a bang, let them know you're there in the first five minutes sort of thing. This one was banned in Denmark and not allowed to be shown during kids telly in the UK, which seems a bit harsh. Perhaps typifying everything we'd look for from a football ad, this Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam-produced doozy from 1996 really established the archetype for much that proceed it both in the market and on this list. Taking a veritable who's who of talent from the time (I mean pause that intro shot and marvel at the XI they've assembled - truly magnifique!), set them up in a high stakes setting straight from a Hollywood sound stage, chuck in some flamboyant trickery and heroics from the players, a generous pinch of humour, a triumphant ending und voila... You've got yourself a pretty good ad. Plus it goes without saying really, but Cantona saying "au revoir", popping the collar, then walloping a shot goal bound really steals the show.
Nike "The Secret Tournament"
Deciding what ad to follow the Colosseum was a tough act, however, Nike's football division really began to click in form from the late 90's and into the early 00's. Ultimately, we've gone for what is quite possibly thee maddest game of 5's we've seen. Honourable mention at this stage to the Edgar Davids fronted ad with Louie Van Gaal in the chopper going full Mission Impossible on us for what is one of the most early 00's ads we've had the pleasure of watching.
To set the scene, Nike have once again amassed an exciting group of players to take part in a cage 5's match on a big old rusty boat with Cantona as ref looking very Alexei Sayle. Basically, a bit of a Mad Max version of the Tennents Sixes. The usual swish step-overs and the like are on show, however, that football really stood out then and it still does now - an all metallic silver ball with the scorpion on, crazy. Ahh how we remember the look of rage from the sports shop employee as we badly attempt to do keepy up's on the shop floor.
Nike "Write The Future"
Nike football ad's are no stranger to big name directors. John Woo taking up the hot seat for 98's Brazil Airport ad, as well as Guy Ritchie for their grassroots to the big time ad, which rather nicely leads us on to 2010's "Write The Future" film. Alejandro González Iñárritu of Revenant & Birdman fame took up the directors chair borrowing that successful point of view style from Ritchie's swaggering entry to the pantheon of Nike ads, but took it to the next level. This piece uses all the tropes; bevvy of talent, a stomping upbeat guitar number to maximum effect to show us the ripple effect of a misplaced pass. Without doubt, looking the freshest on this list, it's still got that sense of character and more importantly, it even manages to get this out of shape hack into thinking lacing up a pair of Total 90's is a viable move.
adidas Impossible Is Nothing 'Jose 10'
It's not all Swoosh up in here, die weltmarke mit den 3 steifen or adidas to you and us have certainly had their fair share of blockbuster ads to aid in re-enforcing their vast talents of outfitting the game for the past 50 years. The Jose 10 ad premiered right around the time of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and showed off the all new adidas Teamgeist collection (which actually made a comeback this year!) and that wickedly futuristic ball. The ad itself sticks out in memory for its light-hearted nature as well as its classy execution with exotic location, perfectly scored scene, and not to mention playing on that world wide nostalgia of kickabouts as a kid, and choosing what footballing heroes you were going to take on and imagine you were, all until it was dinner time. Or whoever's ball it was decided they'd had enough... Jermain Defoe in goal? Duff for Kaka? Inspired choices. Impossible truly is nothing.
Pepsi 'Old West' - Man Utd & Real Madrid
Ah yes! Pepsi football ads. Once the pinnacle of soft drink advertising and football synergy in the early to mid 00's. Adopting the tried and tested formula that had worked so well for Nike, in taking a star studded XI of the world's biggest talents and placing them in a nigh-on nonsensical setting and letting them take care of the rest. Honourable mention to the equally decent Pepsi Medieval Knights ad also.
Carling Euro 2004 'Glasgow Kick About'
Proving that you don't necessarily need a crack team of chiseled ballers to put on a decent advert, Carling's 'Grassroots' approach to this campaign worked wonders at a time where the beer brand was making big moves sponsoring both big Glasgow sides. An infectiously fun kick about around the streets and shopping centres of Glasgow city centre has found itself living rent free in my head for years, taking up precious RAM. Marvel at the ruggedness, the rawness, and just how barmy we are about football in this corner of the world.
UMBRO x GLORY MAG "Four Corners"
Whilst not strictly a TV ad, this work by Umbro & Glory Mag perhaps best represents the spirit of those previous football adverts, albeit viewed within the lens of the current day. The Galactico buffets of talent are no more, the swaggering farfetched fever dreams in coliseums are absent too. Instead, we've to make do with Messi & Salah performing strained CGI trick shots or overly smiley squads selling home appliances all under the watchful eye of sponsors and media departments for sign off.
However, there has been a wave of creativity against the bland 'corporateness', some of which even give you the same feeling all those ads used to. The sense of fun and yearning to get out there and kick a ball. There might not be the household names of before but that's okay. The Four Corners short film by Umbro and football publication Glory Mag - who are famed for their aesthetically pleasing snapshots into the beautiful game, more often than not in far flung outposts. It's the perfect tonic to the nauseating nature of the modern game and the drought of decent football ads. It's beautifully shot and tells a real story that rings true to anyone with even the slightest modicum of interest in football.
Well, as much as I'd like to carry on, this feels like a good place to conclude this edition of Down the Rabbit Hole. Until the next one, we'll see you down the 5's pitches.