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How Nike Lost the World Cup (Guest Post)

World Cup Advertising…Is Nike’s Brand Essence just ‘air’?

 So just who is winning the media battle of the world cup? In spite of ITV’s high level signings, Adam Crozier’s campaign got off to a start worse than England’s.  Under the new management (Crozier himself – former clubs Saatchi and Saatchi and the Football Association) and with new signings including Captain Childes from local rivals the BBC, the ITV team managed to score a hat-trick of own goals. 

First they omitted to broadcast the crucial strap-line in Nike’s lavish world cup advertisement during England’s warm up match against Mexico, and then, perhaps nervous in defence, they over compensated (but with the wrong ad) broadcasting a Hyundai commercial in the middle of a match just when England scored!!  Plus they suffered a third embarrassment with tv pundit Robbie Earle, appearing  to emulate alleged dodgy dealings of managers and directors of football clubs by selling  the broadcasters over-generous ticket allocation to some orange lovelies.  Is it any wonder our team are short of direction? Just look at their media mentors.

 And it’s a shame too, as ITV’s World Cup promotion also mirrored our boys performance, big signings, glossy promo film… we all got excited at the beginning only to be let down when the real action started .

When we finally saw the completed, expensive and stylish Nike ad, it  forecast our ignominious football performance.  Rather than building on the previous (and excellent) ‘Take it to another level’ campaign which took us on a footballers career as seen through the eyes of the player and championed hard work as the key to success…the new Nike ad celebrated footballs’ superstars; and like those same superstars the ad, like our world cup campaign crashed and burned.

It began with Didier Drogba (injured after the commercial, suffering and below his club best, knocked out first round) the film shows  his shot heading for goal only to be kicked off the line by Italy’s Cannavaro (also knocked out first round). We then see France (you’ve guessed it first round casualties who imploded, went on strike and have subsequently been summoned to a ‘meeting’ with the president) playing England, and Ribery (the subject of pretty disgusting French media allegations) getting tackled by Rooney resulting in the England team going onto glor, rather than his mistake leaving him to a future life as a groundsman living in a caravan.  Now  it looks like Rooney is heading for gardening rather than greatness as he  performs well below his best.

Fair enough Nike also feature Brazil and Portugal however the player featured (Ronaldino) wasn’t selected for Brazil, and in spite of Portugal  scoring 7 goals so far, the great Ronaldo has only got one of them…surely Homer Simpson and Federra (who featured in cameo appearances) could have done better.

So why do Nike invest and endorse such over-paid and underperforming celebrities? What happened to the previous culture they flirted with when they championed hard-work and normal people ‘just doing it’.  Had they forgotten previous campaigns where Nike celebrities were plastered all over billboards and then many were not even picked by their countries? 

 The risk  of a celebrity campaignis that it creates exactly the opposite brand adjectives than those intended.  Who wants over priced, style rather than substance, all hype and as Nike say themselves just ‘air’.  Let’s hope the developing world workers who make the shoes will have the last laugh as the countrythat works hardest for its money walks off with the prize…but probably not in a pair off Nike’s.

Gordon Drummond

Media and Radio Industry Consultant.

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June 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Nike curse strikes again.Spooked footballers will start refusing to wear their boots haha.

    Fail to see how it was ever a good ad idea to show football stars irrationally being lavished with praise and glory or utterly failing.Both outcomes are pretty unpalatable.

    Adidas’ world cup ads; the star wars one mixed with ‘other’ celebrities and the other one focusing on the african supporters,was a much better direction.Don’t think Nike will be hiring the ad agency they used again!

    Comment by Zaza | June 27, 2010

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