Football isn’t always played on a length of grass, with eleven players, in a stadium full of packed supporters. Football, in the minds of us all, can be played on any surface, in any arena, and in a host of different ways. Luckily for us dreamers, the realms of fantasy aren’t exclusively limited to the depths of our imaginations.
Throughout the years, visionary brand marketing has brought us the beautiful game in a host of hilarious circumstances, often with the very best footballers of the generation.
Talking of which, one of the latest offerings to the small screen was the ‘Pele vs Ronaldo’ by Emirates airline, with the two players pitted together at 30,000 feet in anticipation of the summer World Cup in Brazil.
Welcome to a celebration of such genius, with Soccerlens picking it’s top 10 football adverts of all time, with every one an absolute gem. It will be tough to choose an absolute winner, but we will endeavor to whittle things down to just one joyous advertisement of genuine excellence, one that has stood the test of time and is just as thrilling today as on the first day it aired.
10. ‘Write the Future’, Nike, 2010
Nike appears a fair few times on this list, and its not a particular surprise considering their line of work. The football gear manufacturer has produced many masterpieces over the years, and their ‘write the future’ campaign is no exception.
The likes of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo tear up the pitch throughout, imagining the far-reaching effects of their every touch, and we are thrown from the heights of hilarity to the epic seriousness of how football matters so much to so many millions.
The sight of Rooney in a string vest will stay with us forever, and we have been humming the Cannavaro song for hours.
9. ‘Good vs Evil’, Nike, 1996
Coming in at number nine is arguably the weirdest advert of the lot; footballers vs demons. And by demons, we mean a huge, winged bat monster and his distinctly Maori-looking minions, who seem to have recently visited the dentist en mass.
Paolo Maldini saves the day at the last minute, with the likes of Ian Wright and Patrick Kluivert battered into submission, before Eric Cantona, with a line fit for a Stalone B-movie, obliterates the winged horror with a strike through the midriff. Genius.
8. ‘The Airport’, Nike, 1998
Boredom isn’t in the Brazilian vocabulary, not if you’re a footballer that is, and this next advert shows off the 1998 national team’s penchant for fun/destruction in a packed international airport.
One hopes that the security has bulked up since the event, with Ronaldo, Denilson and Roberto Carlos among the anarchists, rebelling as one against their delayed plane. Wonderfully choreographed, and with a cute ending, its one of the very best.
7. ‘Ole!’, Nike, 2004
Luis Figo and (the real) Ronaldo made footballing history in this next clip, coining the ‘Ole’ phrase for all tricksters to come.
Forgetting their obligations as professionals, Figo starts a riot of sorts, pitching his Portugal side against the might of the Brazilians in a battle of skills.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Eric Cantona make cameo appearances, as Ronaldinho dances his way onto the pitch, only to be defectively halted by an irate referee. The two sides’ battered and bruised appearance push this piece from good to brilliant.
6. ‘Medieval football’, Pepsi, 2004
What do you do when hordes of barbarians enter your quaint little village, pillaging your badly hidden cans of Pepsi and shouting lots? Well, you rely on David Beckham’s team of footballing legends to sort the mess out, with the aid of a leather football.
Francesco Totti, for our money, should have fronted the gang, with the Italian as close to a gladiator as is possible for a 21st century footballer to be. Still, Roberto Carlos is the man to finally banish the raiders, firing a free-kick perfectly against the padlock holding the spoils.
5. ‘Distracted Linesman’, Kit Kat, 2006
What an idea. The infamous Geoff Hurst ‘goal’ of the 1966 World Cup is one of the iconic scenes of footballing history, but was it in?
Well, thanks to a sneaky bar of Nestle’s finest, the linesman is clueless, but hurriedly calls it, much to the dismay of the apoplectic Germans. Simple, poignant, and just hilarious.
4. ‘The Western’, Pepsi, 2003
Now we enter the business end of the list, and really every advert deserves the crown of best ever, but to the predicted dismay of many, we have to be brutal.
This next one is so good, it should have been made into a feature length piece. Yes, it would probably fall into the kids category, such is the acting involved, but the idea is priceless, and I for one would dance down to the cinema for a ‘Spapepsi’ western starring Manchester United and Real Madrid!
Its ominous opening, with David ‘quick-draw’ Beckham entering an intimidating Madrid bar is wonderfully, inadvertently ended with the first line. ‘Pepsi’ utters Beckham, with as much conviction as a spayed rat. A shoot-out then transpires, with Becks facing his soon to be Real teammate Iker Casillas in a makeshift wooden goal.
Rivaldo’s cameo, coupled with a bandit’s wanted poster in the background, is a touch of class. We want more!
3. ‘Scorpion KO’, Nike, 2002
Third place goes to Nike’s classic offering, ‘Scorpion KO’, aka ‘The Secret Tournament’.
With a whole host of the world’s very best players lured to a frigate moored in a spooky stretch of water, Eric (yes, him again) Cantona hosts an exclusive event on board, with teams of three pitted against each other in cages with the smallest of goals to aim for. Oh, and it’s golden goal rules.
Directed by ‘Brazil’ and ‘Twelve Monkeys’ director Terry Gilliam, this was actually quite a straightforward advert, but a real joy nonetheless. So many stars, and so much footage, The Cage is a sublime test of skill and teamwork. So good in fact, that they made a sequel, and seemingly killed off poor Luis Figo.
We’re still not sure how Rio Ferdinand got an invite, let alone managed to get to the boat.
2. ‘Joga Bonito’, Nike, 2006
Eric Cantona fronts a revolutionary group here called ‘Joga Bonito’, or to use the translation, ‘Play Beautiful’. A series of clips were drip fed over a period of time (perhaps giving an unfair advantage to the stand alone adverts), with some brilliant ideas thrown up.
Check out a compilation of some of the best clips below…
The Ronaldinho crossbar clip is arguably the most discussed football advert of all time, while Thierry Henry’s outrageous street football moves captured the imagination of us all, and we all pondered who won, Zlatan or CR7?
1. ‘The Mission’, Nike, 2000
Despite the quality of the many other adverts here, Nike’s ‘The Mission’ comes out on top for us, with just under two minutes of perfection coming our way via the likes of Edgar Davids, Oliver Bierhoff and Louis van Gaal.
Riveting television, it certainly is, with Davids’ laser-vision, Lillian Thuram’s baritone squalls, and Van Gaals’ logical justification for the raid: “No! It’s rounder!”
Bonus Round: Dare to Zlatan’, Nike, 2014
We have high hopes for this recent campaign for Swedish demi-god, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So far, we have only a few short snippets of Zlatan vs life (and fantasy), but boy they look good.
This be our fav. ZLATAAAAN!!!
What do you think? Any we missed? Let us know your favourite in the comments below…