Tuesday, May 6, 2008

God Bless the Internet...And Nike Soccer Commercials PART I

This is a post I've been wanting to put together for some time now--best Nike soccer commercial recap--and, thanks to finals, I finally have the spare time I needed.

Let's start from the beginning. This video of Good vs. Evil must have come from the 1994 World Cup, when Nike really announced their presence on a soccer market long ruled by Adidas, Umbro, and Puma. It's funny to see how young Maldini looks, how Patrick Kluivert has such a big role (considering he's fallen so far), and how Nike still relies mostly on the same teams: Manchester, Brazil, and Arsenal, for example.

Also notice how they feature Cantona's typically transcendent style. Dig this video of his classic goal--especially the celebration, where he just kind of stands there and goes, "Yeah, I know. I'm the shyte. What do you want? I'll kill you."

So we see that, even in the early 90s, Nike found a way to weave the players' natural playing personalities along with some crazy high-tech stuff into their commercial (also see how the famous defender Maldini tackles in to save the day, definitely a good thing considering Jorge Campos was, as usual, terribly out of position and sure to be embarrassed).

As Nike progressed through the 90s, they kept their commercials high-tech, and started integrating more moves and tricks. See for example, the Die Hard meets Matrix meets Ocean's Twelve commercial which Nike called "The Mission":

You can see the addition of more freestyle tricks here. Whereas that first video just had Ronaldo doing a rainbow, this has someone (is it Dwight Yorke or Andy Cole, I can't tell) doing a rainbow then skipping a tackle then bicycling. Also see Figo's nasty little Meg, some great lifts by Davids, and just generally more skill all around.

But sometimes Nike went completely low-tech in their videos, as they did when they decided to lean completely on the street-style of soccer.

Oh wait, my bad, that's their freestyle basketball commercial. It's an honest mistake though, because look at how similar the freestyle soccer commercial is (it was probably filmed in the same friggin room):

This might well have been the commercial that inspired Nike to start relying so heavily on the freestyle aspect of soccer not only in their commercials, but also on their website and in their clothing styles.

On their website, they began inviting people to send in videos of their moves, and had people vote on which person's moves were the best. And because all these people knew that they had to wear Nike gear and use a Nike ball to get on their site, it was amazing ground-up advertising. I hope all you business majors are taking notes.

Regarding style, all of a sudden Nike soccer clothes started featuring training styles that looked less like jerseys and more like street-wear. Compare the the clothes/jerseys you see the players from that first video wearing with the capris and baggy shirts that Davids and co. wear. I mean, the clothes in the bball and soccer videos are, really, not so dissimilar.

A lot of this street-soccer stuff came from Nike's bball experience, but a lot of it also came from their sponsoring Brazilians, who come from a world where the "street-soccer stuff" as I've called it is completely normal. And it holds a certain earthy, grassroots appeal--no doubt part of What White People Like about "The Idea of Soccer."

And this also coincided with Nike's obsession with the happy-go-lucky, goofy, (ugly,) and relaxed style of Ronaldinho, who was sold to Barcelona (a Nike team) from PSG before the 2003-2004 season. Ronaldinho became the MJ of Nike soccer, taking over from Ronaldo and eventually getting an entire clothing line--R10--to himself.

Dig how Nike features Ronaldinho in this NikeFreestyle (not just Nike) commercial:

He's just one of the guys, chillin out, having fun. That weird stick figure is kind of creepy, it's true, but it could also represent any one of us there with him--it's sort of like an abstract invitation to join in.

I'll conclude part I here, but just to prove how much of an impact Nike had on soccer, I'll leave you all with what is probably the best YouTube video of freestyle soccer tricks (and has a tight song in the background). Obviously street soccer existed before Nike and would have progressed without it, but there can be no doubt that Nike increased the sex appeal of it all--I doubt there would be thousands of YouTube soccer freestyle videos today without Nike.

So maybe we can blame Nike for all the kids who have nasty moves but no real fitness or field awareness.

Anyway, my favorite part starts at 32 seconds, I hope you enjoy: