There are just under three months to go until the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup gets under way and excitement is building ahead of the big kick-off in June.
The pageantry that accompanies the biggest sporting tournament in the world is unrivalled and all of it is beamed directly into living rooms around the globe on television.
With the eyes of the world fixed firmly on FIFA’s showpiece event for a month, advertisement slots take on greater significance and big companies are all too aware of this fact.
The likes of Nike have famously capitalised on the medium of the TV advert, incorporating famous footballers into their elaborate productions to great effect, but they are by no means alone.
Since we’re sure to see some fresh adverts in the lead up to the 2018 World Cup, Goal takes a look back at some of the most memorable World Cup ads in recent history.
World Cup 1982 | ‘Drink Coke’ – Coca-Cola
Soft drink behemoth Coca-Cola has long been a partner of FIFA and, as such, has regularly produced advertisements that dovetail nicely with the federation’s big events. The company is even the name-sponsor of the FIFA World Ranking system.
Of course, no FIFA event is bigger than the World Cup and ahead of the 1982 tournament in Spain, Coca-Cola enlisted the services of one Diego Armando Maradona to help them piggy-back on the rising interest in the upcoming tournament.
Then 21 and on the cusp of a move to, Maradona is shown leaving the pitch, heading down the tunnel towards the changing rooms. Visibly stricken and dejected with his shirt draped over his shoulder, he is followed keenly by a young boy, who asks, sincerely: “Diego, can I help you?”
The Argentine legend declines the offer, but undeterred the young boy insists, saying, “I believe in you, for me you’re the best.” He then proceeds to give Maradona his bottle of Coca-Cola. “Do you want a Coca-Cola?” he asks. “Go on, drink it.”
Eventually Maradona relents and glugs down the entire bottle, returning the young boy’s gesture by gifting him the shirt he wore in the game.
Unfortunately for Maradona and Argentina, though, the advert brought them no luck at the tournament as they went out in the second round, but four years later in Mexico they got their glory.
World Cup 1994 | ‘Practice’ – McDonald’s
Like Coca-Cola, fast-food giant McDonald’s has been a sponsor of FIFA for quite some time and they launched an advertising campaign in the lead-up to the 1994 World Cup, which was held in the United States.
One of those ads later became famous because the protagonist went on the become a professional footballer himself, playing in the Premier League for the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham, as well as internationally for England. His name? Scott Parker.
McDonald’s was an official sponsor of the 1994 World Cup and, at the age of 13, Parker featured in one of their ads as a football-obsessed youngster practicing kick-ups out in his back garden.
Sporting a quintessential ’90’s haircut, the teenage Parker — playing ‘Jimmy’ — is diligently working on his technique before a voice calls to him instructing him that they are going to McDonald’s.
Upon hearing this, he increases his efforts in apparent delight as a voice-over explains, “this commercial is dedicated to all those who know what practice makes… and that McDonald’s do takeaway.”
Simple and effective, we think you’ll agree. Unfortunately, however, in a cruel twist, Parker never made the cut for any England World Cup squads during his career.
World Cup 1998 | ‘Airport football’ – Nike
The mid-90s saw Nike raise the bar when it came to football advertising, with their ‘Good versus Evil’ sketch, which saw the best footballers in the world play a match in hell, setting the tone.
And, ahead of the 1998 World Cup in France, they used one of their main partners — the Brazil national team — to produce another iconic advert. Brazil were the reigning world champions, boasting talent such as Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Romario, and they were heading to France as favourites to lift the trophy, so it was an ideal match.
Playing for a football team, particularly a national team, requires players to travel all over the world and this theme was the foundation for Nike’s 1998 production. Anyone who has travelled by plane will be familiar with the tedium associated with airports and footballers, of course, are not immune to that feeling.
Faced with a delayed flight, the smile-wearing world champions have figured out a way to alleviate the boredom. You’ve guessed it: impromptu freestyle football.
Once Ronaldo produces a ball from his bag he and his cohorts proceed to cavort through the airport to the soundtrack of Sergio Mendes’ now iconic ‘Mas que Nada’ performing tricks and skilfully navigating past travellers while avoiding security.
Eric Cantona even makes a cameo appearance, so the ingredients are all there for a classic.
World Cup 2002 | ‘Footballitis’ – Adidas
As Nike carved out a niche for themselves in the realm of football advertising, their long-time competitor Adidas struggled to keep up, but they produced a clever effort ahead of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.
The famous brand with the three stripes had assembled an impressive roster of star players, such as David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero, who were all rolled out in their humorous ‘Footballitis’ gag.
The ad opens with an overhead shot of the ‘Institute for the Study of Footballitis’ where a slew of experts analyse and describe the affliction that has all sorts of people — and even dogs! — uncontrollably playing football… even without a ball.
“Its symptoms were difficult to understand. We learned very little every day,” explains an expert, who adds that there is no cure for the condition.
The ad was aired quite a bit in the lead-up to the World Cup and it gave viewers a glimpse of the official Adidas matchball for the tournament, which was fittingly called the ‘Fevernova’.
World Cup 2002 | ‘All-stars vs Sumos’ – Pepsi
With the 2002 World Cup taking place in Japan and South Korea, drinks company Pepsi produced an advertisement that amalgamated a piece of Japanese culture with some of the most recognisable faces in football.
An all-star team featuring Raul, Gianluigi Buffon, David Beckham, Rui Costa, Juan Sebastian Veron, Edgar Davids, Emmanuel Petit and Roberto Carlos find themselves challenged by a group of gigantic sumo wrestlers to a game where the prize awaiting the victors is, well, a cool crate of Pepsi of course!
Beckham and co. show some neat touches, but they can’t quite breach the sumo net and astonishingly they lose the challenge after Buffon finds himself unable to stop an outrageous bicycle kick.
World Cup 2006 | ‘Oktoberfest’ – Pepsi
After their Japan-themed advertisement for the 2002 World Cup Pepsi applied the exact same formula ahead of the 2006 World Cup, which was held in Germany.
Beckham, Raul and Roberto Carlos remained from the previous all-star team, with Ronaldinho, Frank Lampard and Thierry Henry joining them, and the colossal sumo wrestlers were replaced by stein-toting, lederhosen-clad Pepsi enthusiasts.
The 2006 Pepsi advert is totally tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t stop it from being much more bizarre than its predecessor, with Ronaldinho and Carlos schmoozing with revellers, while Lampard even engages in some traditional Bavarian dance. However, the outcome is the same — an unlikely win for the local team over the all-stars.
Uniquely too, the Pepsi adverts provided an opportunity for traditional Nike and Adidas athletes to collaborate, given that they would have worked exclusively with their fellow sponsees in other ads.
World Cup 2010 | ‘Write the Future’ – Nike
By the end of the 2000s Nike had firmly established itself as the top dog when it came to advertisements with their Elvis Presley-soundtracked underground cage tournament proving to be a massive success in promoting the Nike football brand.
And they continued in that vein ahead of the 2010 World Cup by producing a fantastic advert, based on the concept of writing one’s own future, in which superstar players such as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo live out the different scenarios that they imagine accompany success and failure.
Didier Drogba, Fabio Cannavaro and Ronaldinho all make an appearance, while tennis legend Roger Federer, NBA star Kobe Bryant, actor Gael Garcia Bernal and even Homer Simpson deliver cameo performances.
The advert reaches a climax as Ronaldo readies himself to take a free kick and ends as the statement ‘Write the Future’ — itself a snappy enough slogan, if not as memorable as ‘Just Do It’ — appears on the black screen.
World Cup 2014 | ‘The Game Before the Game’ – Beats by Dre
During the build-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil Neymar’s face was ubiquitous, so it was no surprise to see him front and centre for Beats by Dre’s main advertisement during the tournament.
Nowadays modern footballers are likely to be found with a pair of headphones draped around their necks as they make their way from their team bus into the changing rooms of any given stadium. Listening to music can help to get a player into the zone for a match and Beats by Dre’s advert honed in on that.
In the film, Neymar is shown in conversation with his father before a match as scenes from Rio de Janeiro are interspersed showing the fuss around the game. Once he puts the headphones over his ears, however, the background noise ceases and only the music can be heard.
As well as Neymar, the likes of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Robin van Persie, Mario Gotze and Daniel Sturridge feature as they go through their pre-match routines in preparation for the game, while special guests such as Serena Williams and Thierry Henry are also involved.