Nike writing the future on and off the field

Its summer time again and it couldn’t have come any sooner. All you football lovers know what does this mean. The scene is destined to be set in South Africa, a gorgeous place to be at. A lot has changed since Germany 2006, when the Azzuri struck gold with penalties on a hot summer night in Berlin. A sporting event as humongous as the FIFA World cup attracts all the major brands of the world. This time around the race is fiercer than ever, top brands competing to get the sponsorship and rights.

Adidas yet again showed its muscle as the top sporting brand by getting the main sponsorship for the World cup. It has been able to do that also by being the major kit sponsor for a lot of teams as well. How ever Nike just turned the tables on Adidas by its latest campaign ad the season.

Nike exploited the dwindling power of the sponsorship: Nike isn’t a cup sponsor, and the ad doesn’t mention the competition. The World Cup — coming in June from South Africa — is actually sponsored by Adidas (ADDYY.PK). And yet the new Nike ad is so entertaining and star-studded that it could well wipe the floor with whatever Adidas comes up with.

Nike has also extended the battlefield on the digital front. Making effective use of venues such as Youtube, where the ‘Write your future’ Nike ad is already approaching 10 million views, offer massive audiences for zero money. Why bother paying for an official slot when an unofficial effort is so much more efficient? And a far better reach, more sharing options and WOM.

In contrast to the Adidas low budget African flavour oriented World Cup ad, the Nike ad features several of the game’s giants. The like of Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid and Portugal), the flamboyant Wayne Rooney (Manchester United and England), Didier Drogba (Chelsea F.C and Ivory Coast), , Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy and the U.S.) and Ronaldinho (F.C. Barcelona and Brazil). Nike took it a step further by featuring its ambassadors from other sports as well with cameos from Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer.

The fun part about the ad is how the stars see their future. Wayne Rooney has the funniest bit where his miss pass is interrupted by Frank Ribery and finds himself a bearded outcast, living in a rain-soaked trailer eating slop out of filthy cooking pot. While Christiano Ronaldo’s perfect free kick rewards him a statue unveiling in the city centre, a stadium in his name and the world premier of the movie made about his glamorous life.

Historically, soccer ads are one-note affairs in which famous players stage awesome, impromptu matches in the slums of Brazil or secret cargo ships.

Why sportswear companies believe that fans might be excited by fictional football is an unsolved mystery. The Nike ad, by contrast, has just the right level of magic realism to be taken seriously.

Even non-soccer fans will love the scene where Ronaldo greets Homer Simpson at his front door and nutmegs the ball through his legs: “Ronal-D’oh!” 😉