Let’s face it. Hyperbole is great. When you hit a wall at mile six, mentally cue up a gritty freestyle tournament in Barcelona against some of the world’s best players, paint on some 300-style mood lighting and imagine yourself going ham on Messi to some industrial remix of a Nina Simone song. Works literally every time.
The best soccer commercials are absolutely flawless at tapping into the best parts of hyperbole, mining them for meaning and then releasing it to run wild in our imagination. Totti and Henry on a freestyle team together? Allowing you to feel like you’re climbing the ladder for Arsenal? Of course. Natural.
The quality of substantive soccer commercials has skyrocketed in recent years. With the advent of technology and the increase in production value, you’re seeing classics spring up left and right. I don’t recall any soccer commercials from the ’94 World Cup, but the most advanced was probably Lalas cracking open a Pepsi and smiling.
With that in mind, my top five soccer commercials of all time. Now with even more immensity.
#5 – Messi’s F50i advert
Adidas is generally muscled out of the commercial game by Nike, which seems to pour more resources into the big-money ads that generate more attention. This one is the exception. Created to introduce Messi’s new boot in 2009, it features Zidane recounting a ridiculously over-the-top legend about Messi’s greatness that involves a truck accident, sparks and a whole lot of awesome. The hyperbole here is everything that’s good about big-money soccer commercials. I could watch this all day.
#4 – Take me out to the ballgame
Most of the videos on this list are painted over with a sheen of gloss, intended to highlight the glitzier side of the game. Not this magnificent effort from Gatorade, which follows the USMNT to some of the less glamorous fixtures on the CONCACAF slate. There is a moment in this video when tremors from the opposing fans are so vehement that they shake the ceiling tiles in the locker room. That has always stuck with me. From the ‘Yanks Go Home’ sign to the violent opposition to the touching rendition of ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame,’ this video reminds us what it is to be a US soccer fan.
#3 – Just Write It
By far the best commercial to come out of the last two World Cup campaigns, Nike’s ‘Just Write It’ is an epic journey through the mental expectation burdened on some of the world’s best players. From trailer park Rooney in a nappy beard to Cannavaro being feted at his own party to the epic CR7 statue unveil (a scene I’ve adapted and stolen for some workout inspiration, I must confess), this is one of those videos that makes you itch horribly for another World Cup.
#2 – Take it to the Next Level
A first-person video with a shaky ground-level cam and matchups against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho? Don’t mind if I do. Nike’s take on a young Dutch player’s rise from amateur soccer player to Arsenal to stealing free kicks from Wesley Sniper on the Dutch National Team inspires the inner dreamer in all of us. Bonus points for the Eagles of Death Metal pull and just enough over-the-top hyperbole to make this video incredible.
#1 – The Cage
Nike’s Cage series is by far the most well-thought out commercial series to ever hit the airwaves. Emceed by Eric Cantona, it featured eight elite three-player squads facing off in freestyle matches in a cage in the bowels of a tanker. The losers swim home. Here are all the matches from the tournament collected in an epic 6+ minute video. Totti’s team won because of course it did.