That epic 1998 Nike football commercial

Summer 1998: the french soccer world cup was about to start and Nike, together with Wieden+Kennedy agency, launched one of the most epic football advertisings of all time. Universal icons as Ronaldo (the first famous one), Rivaldo Ferreira and Roberto Carlos messing around the airport with football tricks, dressed in Nike apparel, waiting for their plane to France. 
How was it all born? The Brazil Football Federation wanted to promote Brazilian football with the famous skills and trickery of their players and, the creative team of John Boiler and Glenn Cole was ready to change the storytelling, from Nike’s Angels vs Demons Campaign (1996) to a new comedy line. It all mixed up with every bored traveller’s dream: kicking a ball in the airport to kill the time, or watching someone doing it splendidly while waiting for the flight.

So, this is basically how Nike established itself as a major player in the football markets. In a boring afternoon at the airport, Ronaldo starts playing with a Nike ball, involving champions as Romário Faria, Cafu, Roberto Carlos-Oficial in showing their skills chased by the police. King Éric Cantona (Eric Cantona) appears too, and “Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes is the soundtrack. At the very end, the classy touch: Ronaldo hits the post, just like saying “Take it easy, we players make mistakes as all humans”.

The 1998 Nike Airport advertising is one of these cases when the fame goes beyond results: although Brasil lost that France 98 World Cup, success is still alive. Raise your hand if you are in your 25–30 and you haven’t thought about this video while being in an airport. Again, raise your hand if you didn’t think about football while listening to “Mas Que Nada”. This is a technique that Nike became able to utilyze: music and branding. Sergio Mendes’ song now carries the same association as the classic samba rythm, identifying Brazil and their tricky footballing culture.

So what’s the final message? There’s actually more than one, and they are very immediate. First: “All you need to get out of boredom is a Nike ball”. Second: “Brasil football is happy, tricky and fun, and so is Nike next to it”. Third: “Brasilian players have great skills”. Fourth: “Yes, they have great skills, but they are humans. They wait for flights, they can’t do what they want after all (police chases them) and, at the very end, they can make mistakes. So, wear Nike: you can be one of them!”. This is why, the masterpiece, is still alive.

SportsComm — Marco Pighizzini