People love to talk about how much better things once were, particularly in football.
You hear nostalgic folk all the time chirping about how it used to be a real man’s game, for real fans in real stadiums and everything used to be wonderful.
That’s not always true but one thing that is almost universally agreed upon among fans is that football commercials used to be way better than they are today.
The 1990s and the 2000s saw an explosion of creative marketing around the game — led by Nike and others — that today’s emotionless copy-and-paste football advertising doesn’t get close to replicating.
We’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane and rank the greatest football commercials from that golden era.
Here they are.
10. Nike: What are you ready for?
The genius of this commercial is you spend most of it wondering what on Earth the little Swedish boy is doing with the meat and the football. All the suspense comes to a climax in a wonderful moment of innocence, fear, drive and daring.
9. Carlsberg: The greatest pub team in the world
Carlberg took something that many of us can relate to — pub football — and combined it with the greatest legends of the English game. Like all the best commercials, it’s a very simple idea that’s just wonderfully executed it, with humour, great sounds and feel-good factor.
8. Nike: Brazil airport
In 1996, Nike paid £100m pounds to become the manufacturers and sponsors of the Brazilian national team. They immediately set about marketing sunny Samba football to the world and they captured everything that’s great about Brazilian football in this memorable airport spot.
7. Nike: Good Vs. Evil
Villains, fire, action, legends, the Colosseum? This classic effort from Nike about protecting football from the dark forces has just about everything you could want in a football ad.
6. Pepsi: The football warriors
Before Cristiano Ronaldo, before Lionel Messi — even before Ronaldinho, there was David Beckham. The original mass-marketable football superstar of the turn of the century featured with some his mates in this epic medieval adventure from Pepsi.
5. Nike: Write the future
Nothing quite gets at us like the idea of controlling our own destiny, and that’s exactly what Nike tells us is possible with their monster ‘Write the future’ promotion for the 2010 World Cup. They brought in Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu to do it and got guest appearances from figures like Kobe Bryant and Homer Simpson.
4. Adidas: José +10
Adidas prepared for the 2006 World Cup in Germany by bringing the legends to life. Possibly the best part of the whole thing is that amongst Franz Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini, Adidas managed to sneak in Jermain Defoe.
3. Nike: The Next Level
In the days before social media and ultra-realistic Career Mode in Fifa, Nike took us inside the journey from unknown talent to global football superstar with ‘The next level’. You can tell how dated the ad is because Arsène Wenger was still the manager you wanted to play for and the Netherlands were still a global power to aspire to.
2. Nike: The Joy
There has never been and never will be a greater overall campaign than Nike’s Joga Bonito series ahead of the 2006 World Cup, hosted by Eric Cantona. And the very best of the bunch was this one, showing the pure, unadulterated joy of football through the lens of a young Ronaldinho.
1. Nike: Secret Tournament
Everything about Nike’s ‘The Secret Tournament’ was perfect, from the Elvis Presley-inspired soundtrack, to the secret ship location, the host and his cane, the stacked assortment of players and the dazzling skills. Released in 2002, it was the commercial that truly defined the golden era of football advertising and there will never be another like it.