The Lost Art Of The Football TV Advert

Do you remember the time when you didn’t just wait for a Euros or a World Cup but you were also itching to see the array of TV adverts that would come along with them?

There was a time when they were pretty damn spectacular, mainly from Nike.

I have looked back and the mid to late 90s and the early 2000s were the peak of said ads.

Now we are getting some poor ones again and nothing that really takes our imaginations. There could be a few reasons for this.

One being age.

At the time of the great adverts I was 12-18, ages that you could suggest are very impressionable.

True but I would doubt that those of that age now are currently enjoying the recent guff that has been on our screens.

More money was spent on production.

Possibly but I am not too sure that is true. Look at the names of today, these players will be earning more and will have a higher profile plus new graphics and technologies are more expensive and the companies still shell out for them and locations.

So why has the art of producing a great footballing TV advert deserted us?

To be honest as I have already suggested it was Nike who had the greatest TV commercials. For a period of time they through money at it and had a basic but winning formula.

They made their ads almost Hollywood like.

They introduced directors such as Terry Gilliam and Guy Ritchie. They gave those men freedom to do what they wanted.

The soundtrack used by Nike was often impeccable.

Using Elvis Presley’s ‘A little less conversation’ revamped by JXL for the cage commercial was absolute genius. Here that song now and you think Nike, at least that is what I thought of when BMW tried using it for their new car advert.

We had the Tamba Trio’s ‘Mas Que Nada’ going through our heads in 1998… ‘O aria aio oba oba oba’…. You are all thinking of the Brazilian national team playing football in an airport now.

They would have a cast of great players with two main stars… Ronaldo and Eric Cantona.

The first really good football advert I remember was Nike having all their top players playing in what looked like hell against the devils and his demons.

You had it all, an eclipse, fiery flames lighting up the lines on the pitch, the players, the devil, the demons and then the football.

Things were getting dirty with Ian Wright, Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Patrick Kluivert all getting smashed up by the evil opposition. The demons attack Jorge Campos goal looking destined to score when suddenly and angelic Paolo Maldini makes a sliding challenge, wins the ball and plays the pass. The ball works its way to a youthful Ronaldo who jinks past a few ugly demons before he slips it to Cantona…

The devil in goals looks on, as Eric controls the ball on his chest and then traps it on the ground. He utters the words ‘Au revoir’ in his French sinister tone, lifts his collar and blasts a now flaming ball through the devils chest. Job done!

Now what 15-16 years on and I still remember that vividly. I also remember everyone at school, in the local park or in the streets lifting sometimes imaginary collars and saying ‘Au revoir’ before hitting shots or penalties. It gripped our imaginations.

There was always humour in these Nike adverts too. Even in the dark one above we had Paolo Maldini say innocently to Eric in his broken English ‘Maybe they are friendly’. Ronaldo was often the fall guy, quite literally in the advert Brazil vs Portugal were he took a tumble off the park much to the amusement of Roberto Carlos. Also back to that airport ad, Ronaldo missed the easy chance to score and put the icing on the cake of what was a lovely build up.

Nike were in a league of their own they enhanced the players they had. People went out and bought their stuff based on these ads.

Yes they have slipped a wee bit. The one with Thierry Henry running through his house was silly and the one with Wayne Rooney growing a beard wasn’t great either but they still tried and still had humour.

Now why have Adidas been so poor?

Tell me an Adidas football advert?

Off the top of my head I could think of one. Looking on youtube I could recall three more and still only the one I remembered was any good.

The good one was in 2004 and was for the Euros that year. It had a bunch of top players traveling on scooters to Lisbon. They would bump into each other on the way and play a bit of football against locals in car parks, motorway rest stops and in small towns.

What this ad did well was say ‘look we aren’t Nike, we don’t do Hollywood, we want the players to do the talking for us’. For the only time I can think of they used players David Beckham, Raul, Alessandro Del Piero, Oliver Kahn and Zinidine Zidane properly.

Problem is Adidas often try and copy Nike and fail every time.

Look at the advert they had with the two boys are picking teams for their football match. One of the wee boys picks Jermain Defoe ahead of Lionel Messi, ridiculous!

But that ad is just the Nike cage commercial without the drama, the song, the skills and speed. Its weak in comparison and is easily forgettable.

As for the doodle advert they had starring Messi, Steven Gerrard and Kaka… What on earth was that about? Was that a terrible Seasame Street spoof or what?

That in no way used those players in the best way and in no way sold Adidas to kids or anyone for that matter.

Then they went for some sort of Zidane searching for Messi nonsense… Really all it was was Zidane acting like Eric Cantona. Once again they failed to get anything from Messi.

Is Messi not marketable?

He is the best player in the world but try as Adidas and Pepsi might they just can’t sell him in adverts.

Do kids want to be Messi?

A lot will but commercially will they buy the boots that he wears or will they buy Nike Barcelona strips and get his name on the back… The latter would be my bet.

He has a few problems. He isn’t very good looking or photogenic. He also has clumsy English.

Many may have said the same about former Nike poster boy Ronaldo but he had one key ingredient that Messi seems to lack and thats personality. Ronaldo used his clumsiness to work in his favour and even used that cheeky smile.

Messi on the park is flawless and off the park no one wants that and no one wants to see him goof about in a jungle or in a festival crowd. (Pepsi take note!)

My idea for Pepsi or Adidas is to make an ad that has the everyday Messi, a reality advert or a group of them. Have him at training, in the house, messing (pardon the pun) around with friends wearing Adidas gear or drinking Pepsi. Make him more accessible.

Don’t make him act, the Blackburn Venky advert should prove footballers can’t act!

Nike have similar issues. They have a new cast and for me Wayne Rooney isn’t going to sell you much and Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t Lionel Messi and also has no personality on screen.

Nike have to go big and create another star. Do it Hollywood style and do it with Neymar who has style, skill and individuality.

Gone are the days of footballers playing about with the honey monster or selling pizzas. Adverts are huge business now and the big companies should be doing all they can to make a generation anticipate their next big product launches again.

Leave a Reply