World Cup Ads and the Power of Video Marketing

World Cup Ads and the Power of Video Marketing

The World Cup may be over, but the memories and excitement will last for the next four years until the tournament comes around again. Like many large-scale sporting events, the game itself is only part of the draw. The ads that play during commercial breaks throughout the tournament can create just as much of a buzz, and can last as pop cultural icons for years to come.

Nike has long been the leader in the World Cup ad game, and its spots provide valuable lessons for any business that wants to use video effectively.

“Airport 98” – A Classic

One iconic ad with staying power is this classic, starring the Brazilian soccer team. The 1998 commercial begins with a familiar scene—airplanes delayed, and bored passengers lounging in the terminal. Quickly, though, the players take charge, and the ad takes off.


What starts as young athletes goofing off during a long wait becomes an exhibition in the artistry of the game – particularly as it’s played by the creative, dazzling Brazilians. With bouncy music and some well-timed comedic moments, the ad is relentlessly entertaining, making it the kind of spot that makes you stop your commercial-break trip to the fridge and pay attention.

The ad remains critically-acclaimed today for being one of the first World Cup ads to be treated with such care – and budget.

“Write the Future” – A Global Epic

For the 2010 tournament, Nike went with an approach that might seem like your standard “show athletes doing cool stuff” template. But over the course of three minutes, the “Write the Future” ad manages to tell at least seven different stories.


How? Well, six of them play out on the pitch – a half-dozen of the world’s biggest soccer luminaries are depicted in the heat of competition, the ebbs and flows of the game seemingly determining their fates for the rest of time. Meanwhile, threaded throughout the whole three-minute clip, we see the impact the game has on a global audience, from cheering fans crowded around a single TV in a run-down shack to sharply-dressed theatergoers attending the premiere of a movie about Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The spot ends just as Ronaldo, arguably the best player alive, takes a free kick in front of a sold-out stadium, with everyone including the other players on the field watching intently. We don’t know if he scores, but we don’t have to. The commercial has us hooked – not just on the game of soccer or the individual stars it depicts, but the sense that the World Cup is history in the making, full of moments that will change lives and create conversations all over the world.

Short film ads have become more popular in recent years, allowing companies more room to expand on their message, get viewers invested, and forge memorability. Now nearly half of video content coming from businesses is two or more minutes long. And, research has shown that consumers who watch branded content have 59% higher brand recall than those who view display ads, and are 14% more likely to seek more branded content.

Whether it be testimonials or explainer videos, longer, branded video content that tells a story and inspires others to improve themselves, their work or their industry can have lasting impacts and drive success.

“Vai na Brasileiragem” – The New Class

This year’s most popular Nike ad for the 2018 World Cup is a fast-paced and adrenaline filled commercial for, yet again, the Brazilian soccer team. It’s a showcase for the way soccer pervades Brazilian culture, and it’s a testament to the passion of the game at every level, from the elites on the international stage all the way down to the 7-a-side dreamers who play under streetlights in Rio’s favelas.


It also gives the viewer a reason to take an interest in the Brazilian team, which represents the country’s hopes and dreams for another World Cup trophy. It shows how the players who took the field in Russia this summer represent more than a flag – they represent a culture of soccer-loving people, with all the pomp and pressure that brings.

Cleverly, it even pays homage to the esteemed “Airport 98” commercial, with Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) once again banging his airport terminal shot off of a post to the chagrin of onlookers.

Why do these ads work? There are a few reasons. Using flashy cinematography, charismatic and attractive athletes, appropriate musical cues and dramatic twists all make these spots must-watch TV. But what truly sets them apart is the fact that they tell incredible stories with a central idea – and that idea is specifically not “buy Nike soccer equipment.” Although Nike’s gear is found everywhere in the ads, you never see an athlete holding up a ball or a shoe to present it to the camera. Instead, the idea the ads present is about the magic and wonder of the game itself (especially when it’s played on the world stage). It’s a powerful idea, and by putting its brand adjacent to it, Nike is able to sell itself as being integral to what makes soccer so fascinating to so many.

When creating video content, it’s important to start with, and stay faithful to, a basic premise that your customers or prospects can agree with you on. For Nike, it’s not “our equipment is the best.” It’s, “our equipment is a natural part of this game you love.” Your customers’ ability to identify with, and thereby remember, your brand will help you stay top of mind come decision time.

 With the eyes of the world on the TV for an event that happens only once every four years, companies who can afford a time slot for advertisements during the World Cup are under hard pressure to make it worth their money. But you don’t have to have a World Cup-sized ad budget to create a spot that resonates. You just have to have an idea that your customers can connect to – that’s the real game-winning goal.


This blog brought to you by our 2018 Summer Creative Marketing Intern, Mackenzie Bright