How to sell football boots. Nike's top four telly ads.


The year is 1988. Dan Weiden, creative director of ad agency Wieden and Kennedy is attending a meeting at his client Nike’s offices. He and a group of employees are seated around a table and the employees are explaining the Nike approach to marketing sports shoes. Dan Weiden is impressed with their can-do attitude and says, "You Nike guys, you just do it."

The rest, as they say, is history.

The Nike story is impressive. After stumbling badly against archrival Reebok in the 1980s, Nike rose about as high and fast in the “90s as any company can. It took on a new religion of brand consciousness and broke advertising sound barriers with its indelible Swoosh, “Just Do It” slogan. What’s more, Nike managed the deftest of marketing tricks: to be both anti-establishment and mass market.

From the beginning, “Just Do It” was brought to life by celebrity sports figures such as Michael Jordon. If Jordan can play an entire NBA season in a pair of Nikes, weekend warriors can also trust the shoes’. Celebrity endorsements appealed to the consumers’ sense of belonging and “coolness” as Nike became a self-fulfilling image prophecy: if you want to be hip, you are probably wearing Nike.

The company turned sweaty, pain-ridden, time-consuming exercise into something sexy and exciting. Most importantly, even those who were not in fact exercising (the vast majority) still wanted to own them.

Today, no one sets the bar for sports clothes commercials higher than Nike. During the last 10 years or so their creative work has not only turned up the heat, but blown much of the competition out of the water. And their TV ads for their football boots are perfect examples of a brand pushing the boundaries with moments of absolutely mesmerising television.

4. Secret Tournament
Terry Gilliam shot this for Nike back in 2002 and star of the show is footballer, poet, actor and politician Eric Cantona. We see him swinging a cane inside an old cargo liner while putting some of the world’s finest footballers through their paces. It’s magnificent, and even if the idea of 2002’s finest footballers doing flair tricks in a cage doesn’t appeal at first, it really is worth your time.

3. Airport 98
Shot by John Woo, here we see the 1998 Brazil football team waiting for a plane to the World Cup, and get bored...This was a great era for Brazil, when Ronaldo was young and Romario was still playing and it just can’t get any better than this. Unless it had a King Eric cameo in it. Oh wait, it does. Perfect.

2. Take It To The Next Level
This spot, centered around the rise of a mysterious young Arsenal star, features WAGs, flash cars, random vomiting and some of the best on-pitch camerawork you’ve ever seen. In other words, it’s the best thing Guy Ritchie has ever done.

1. Write the future.
Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, this spot shows what the future may hold for today's soccer superstars. Whatever they do in the present will have a consequence in the future. It is a work of genius and every moment should be savored. Still loving that Rooney beard. And the wedding. And Ronaldo on The Simpsons. And the table tennis....


John Fountain is a freelance copywriter.

Email: [email protected]

Follow @fountainjohn


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