We here at The Other 87 believe that there is an art, or rather, a knack, to creating a good soccer commercial.
When you think about it, it’s kind of staggering the number of truly great examples there have been in the last 15 or so years. Even the bad ones tend to have some redeeming quality, be it highlight reel action or star players/endorsers making themselves look silly in the name of hawking high-tech boots.
But, not being ones to leave well enough alone, we wanted to figure out what that knack is. After untold hours of scouring YouTube to watch old favorites, new discoveries, and better-left-forgotten embarrassments, we think we’ve figured it out.
What follows is the first half of our commercial countdown. We’ve picked out ten ads and run them through our rating system to figure out which is best and which, well, isn’t.
Our criteria for awarding points We looked at characteristics that were present in nearly all of the ads we encountered, and gave each category a possible point value based on how prevalent that category was. The points we assigned each commercial are based on how successful that ad was with that particular element. Our categories are as follows:
a. Number of World Class players (Up to 20 points)
b. Directing (15 points)
c. Soccer skills on display (15 points)
d. Coolness of premise (10 points)
e. Humor (10 points)
f. Miscellaneous (10 points)
g. Absurdity of premise (5 points)
h. Soundtrack (5 points)
i. Bicycle kick? (5 points)
j. Eric Cantona? (5 points)
Note well that these are not by any means the 10 best soccer commercials/football adverts we could find. Rather, we chose these 10 to rate because we thought something about them was particularly memorable, and because they were different enough to allow for some variety in our commentary as we explore the genre.
10. The Quest – Adidas
a. Number of world class players: 12. I count 12 at least, though the action moves so fast there may be more. They each have their individual 30 second spots, but here we’re just counting the ones in the initial commercial linked to above.
b. Directing: 4. The B-movie special effects are effective at building an atmosphere, less so at making the players look cool.
c. Soccer skills on display: 2. There is literally nothing here, with the exception of Kaka’s little flick to himself. This is “The Quest’s” failure; the decision to focus on atmosphere and aesthetics rather than soccer action ruins the atmosphere and aesthetics. The laws of physics already apply to Lionel Messi as they would a cartoon character, there’s no need to make him even more cartoony. No amount of defenders can thwart Messi, but a wind machine and a green screen can make him look pretty stupid.
d. Coolness of premise: 10. The premise is the best thing this has going for it. Zinedine Zidane playing a combination of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Morpheus, but in a universe with a Sin City aesthetic? Sold. Except…
e. Humor: 0. Moving on.
f. Miscellaneous: 0. …the missed opportunites are so great here it’s maddening. The execution completely fails the premise. Where’s the training montage with Zidane running the stars of 2010 through their paces? Where’s the equivalent of the fight between Morpheus and Neo, when the Sparks, Blazes and Triggers of the world cut their teeth against Der Kaiser’s and Bombers and other legends? What’s the point of searching for all these players if he’s not going to do anything with them? It’s maddening.
g. Absurdity of premise: 2. I pretty much already view Zidane as a combination of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Morpheus.
h. Soundtrack: 3. It tries just a little too hard toward the second half.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. I didn’t see one.
j. Eric Cantona? 5. No, but it does use Zidane in the same role Cantona plays in Nike commercials, so we’ll give them the points.
Total Score: 38
Verdict: A wasted opportunity even Fernando Torres can shake his head at.
9. Ninja Kendo Robots (not its actual name) – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 9. I count 9 in the van at the beginning, and holy crap, one of them’s Pep Guardiola. Are we supposed to assume that only two of them survive? That’s kind of dark for a Nike commercial; Ferguson and Wenger are going to have fits about that particular international date. As a side note, is that Louis Van Gaal in the chopper, or Sloth from the Goonies?
b. Directing: 8. Everything looks pretty good, but it’s not as successful in its “follow the ball” premise as spots like the Brazil airport one (we’ll get to it later). This ball seems to travel to more locations than Carmen Sandiego, and we never know how.
c. Soccer skills on display: 4. Davids’ finishing move is pretty nice, but most of the commercial is just them punting it back and forth. Is it going to electrocute them if one of them catches it? Also, how do I know if I want a soccer ball grappling hook if they’re going to do all that cutting right when they’re using them?
d. Coolness of premise: 7. The big letdown is the fact that they’re doing this for a slightly better soccer ball than the one in their specially-designed suitcases. A bonus two points for the soccer ball grappling hook idea, though.
e. Humor: 3. Edgar Davids’ glasses as night vision goggles is pretty wonderful, as is the fact that as many as seven world-class footballers died in this raid because of his dreadlocks. It also gets a bonus point for the tongue-in-cheekness of the premise.
f. Miscellaneous: 7. The Bruce Lee/James Bond theme of the ad is nice, but they didn’t go far enough with it.
g. Absurdity of premise: 5. Yes.
h. Soundtrack: 2. Could have benefitted from some Bondian horns. Too bad nobody knew who Michael Giacchino was when this was made.
i. Bicycle kick? 5. Yes
j. Eric Cantona? 0. Nope. A shame really, because he easily could have been the guy in the red armor.
Final Score: 50
Verdict: Not enough players or action to really make an impact.
8. Showdown – Pepsi
a. Number of world class players: 12. I count five Madrid players in the beginning, five Manchester United, one Roberto Carlos, and one Rivaldo.
b. Directing: 10. David Beckham almost looks like a badass here, something I’m choosing to attribute to the director.
c. Soccer skills on display: 1. This hurts this one, but it gets a point because that horse’s strike is a solid one.
d. Coolness of premise: 8. I’m a sucker for Westerns.
e. Humor: 10. Two points for the trench coats with the names on the back, two points for Iker Casillas chugging his Pepsi with his goalie gloves on, two points for having the horse take the kick, and four points for Roberto Carlos bursting out of the barbershop shouting “Hey gringos!”
f. Miscellaneous: 7. I enjoy that Beckham’s eventual move to Madrid makes him basically Clint Eastwood’s character in A Fistful of Dollars here, playing the two sides against each other for his own benefit. Also Iker Casillas’ general awkwardness. It’s tough to look that uncool in a cowboy hat and trench coat, but he pulls it off.
g. Absurdity of premise: 5. I just like that they’re two European club teams doing a commercial in such a uniquely American backdrop.
h. Soundtrack: 4. It has a nice, vaguely Morriconian score.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. Not even close
j. Eric Cantona? 0. Sadly not. He’d be awesome in a cowboy hat.
Total Score: 57
Verdict: Does all the little things right, but loses points on the big stuff.
7. Take it to the Next Level – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 12. We’re doing the original, not the director’s cut, which I know has at least an additional Carlos Tevez in it. I’m even counting Wenger and Bojan, so fans of this one shouldn’t really complain.
b. Directing: 14. I’m deducting a point on a technicality; the POV is so good, it gives me a slight case of motion sickness to watch it.
c. Soccer skills on display: 12. The whole commercial moves quickly, and while the action isn’t as flashy as the Brazil squad in the airport, the POV action looks so good they get extra for trying that.
d. Coolness of premise:10. It’s pretty unique, and I admit to being stunned the first time I saw it.
e. Humor: 2. Neither vomit nor pantsing is that funny, but dueling kissy faces from Cristiano Ronaldo and Cesc Fabregas might make you giggle.
f. Miscellaneous: 6. Two little things bother me more than they should about this, now that I’ve watched it three or four times. One, the free kick at the beginning, which I take we’re supposed to see as our anonymous young prospect’s star-making moment, really isn’t that good. Totally saveable, but the keeper dives after it’s already in the net. Two, as he’s walking into the training ground, there’s no way he knows to push that door and not pull it. It has a pull handle! I’d have tried to pull it and looked like an idiot.
g. Absurdity of premise: 1. Happens all the time.
h. Soundtrack: 2. It’s okay, I guess.
i. Bicycle kick? 0. Shockingly no, though I imagine they might have killed a cameraman trying.
j. Eric Cantona? 0.
Total Score: 59
Verdict: Does all the big things right, but loses points on the small stuff.
6. Cantona vs. the Devil – Nike
a. Number of world class players: 10. There are ten players in the initial shot as they come out of the tunnel, and judging by the make-up of the squad, they’re planning on lining up in a 1-1-2-5.
b. Directing: 9. A perfectly competent job. The players do a good job selling the contact, and the man behind the camera is wise enough to keep us in wide shot for most of the actual action.
c. Soccer skills on display: 5. Some basic moves, but often done in isolation. The focus is more on the brutality of the Hell squad than the skill of our heroes.
d. Coolness of premise: 8. Gets points here for being an early example of the type.
e. Humor: 7. The blind referee is a nice touch, as is Cantona’s “Au revoir.”
f. Miscellaneous: 9. I don’t care if he is Eric Cantona, he still gets a point deducted for popping his collar before taking the final shot. Some things are never okay.
g. Absurdity of premise: 5. I guess they could have played a team of aliens.
h. Soundtrack: 2. Kind of nondescript epic music.
i. Bicycle kick? 5. You betcha.
j. Eric Cantona? 6. An extra point for making him the star.
Total Score: 66
Verdict: Invented what later commercials perfected.
Wondering if your favorite made the top 5? Check back Wednesday to see the results.
1. Or football advert, if you prefer.