One of the most striking things about doing the research for our commercial countdown was how different they are from the commercials we typically see here featuring baseball, basketball and football players.
In each of the commercials we reviewed, with the exception of the Pepsi Wild West spot, the star wasn’t any one of the players, but the game itself. Some were more important than others; Ronaldo or Cantona or Other Ronaldo are more prominent than Cafu or Rui Costa or Cannavaro, but they’re the stars in the same way Michael O’Keefe is the star of Caddyshack, just because they get the most face time.
That’s not usually the case in American sporting commercials. Be Like Mike, Vote for Pepper, Mean Joe Greene; there’s no question as to who the star is. The Bo Knows commercial has Michael Jordan, John McEnroe, Kirk Gibson and Wayne Gretzky in it, but it’s still not an ensemble piece. When Michael Jordan and Larry Bird appeared in a commercial together, it became an all-time classic. “Secret Tournament” has twelve times the number of stars. Check out this list from ESPN. How many of those have more than two or three athletes in them?
What’s more, the whole tone is different. There aren’t very many actual sports involved in most of the ones on that list, nor are the concepts quite as out there. In terms of tone and execution, the one that’s closest to a soccer commercial, at least to the humorous ones, is the Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine “Chicks Dig the Long Ball,” which has both the superstar athletes making fools of themselves and the post-logo twist ending that are staples of the genre.
They also tend to be a little more explicit about the product they’re advertising. Ubiquitous logos aside, many of the soccer commercials we reviewed barely even mention the products they’re trying to sell. For some, that’s because the goal is to sell a brand, not just Predators or Vapors but Adidas and Nike. For others, it’s about atmosphere. The Carlsberg Pub Team ad runs for approximately two minutes and 45 seconds before you figure out what they’re selling, which means both A) They’re really confident in viewers sticking around for those two minutes and 45 seconds and B) They can’t really show it on TV.
Those ten we reviewed are an extremely limited sample size. There are countless little gems that I didn’t really consider because I knew they would do poorly in our rubric, which was designed to look at some of the larger campaigns, the kind that launch a World Cup or European Championship. Some of my favorites of the ones we didn’t look at:
- The Adidas F50 vs. Predator campaign, particularly the one where Messi and Xavi go foot-bowling, which would get a 15 in humor just for the fact that they gave them each a monogrammed bowling shirt for the spot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntRvq-vO0LM
- The Brazil-Portugal battle in the tunnel. There wasn’t much point in doing it and the Brazil airport one, so I went with the latter instead. Still very well done, and Eric Cantona’s in it, so bonus points for it there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfzJMVj61Ds
- This one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmpAedLS8Rk. And this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3I2UJVlli0&NR=1
- A whole host of U.S. Soccer-related ones. Not really Dempsey’s efforts for Modelo or Donovan’s for the Mexican lottery, but the ones that were promoting the team itself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDgEosqZGCM
- The FIFA blindfolded keepie-up, the FIFA 2010 “How Big Can Soccer Get” campaign, the Landon Donovan vs. Steve Nash in a hot tub last year, and in fact all of their commercials for the last several years.
My colleagues with The Other 87 had their own personal favorite picks:
Wes, who apparently thought he was picking Friends episodes, made a list that looks like this:
- “The one where the little kids pick the team”
- “The one with the old English players pub team”
- “Write the Future”
- “The ESPN soccer commercial shorts (Landon vs. The Copier; Jozy and the Uniform Switch; Abby vs. Intraoffice Diving)”
- “Probably the cage match one, just cause it’s so f*cking elaborate”
Adams’ list looked like this:
1. Pepsi Old West ad
2. Write the Future
3. The Secret Tournament
4. Getafe ad
5. Nike Football Ninjas