Ronaldo — original version, not Portuguese — and his Brazilian teammates running riot in a Rio airport. David Beckham’s career being cruelly cut short by a rare case of “Footballitis.” That awful human being who, for reasons still unknown 16 years later, decided to volley his dog into a bus stand.
For football fans, the World Cup’s accompanying TV ads often prove more memorable than the action on the pitch. The blockbuster shorts see the game’s biggest names flex their acting chops (often to woeful effect) with celebrities and gold-standard names from other sports. Who can forget this Nike spot from 2010, which saw Homer Simpson come face to face with Cristiano Ronaldo while Wayne Rooney, having lifted himself out of squalor, gave Roger Federer the runaround in a game of table tennis?
If you’re a brand, World Cup spots are advertising manna: an open goal to distill sporting patriotism into cold hard sales figures. In a bid to outdo each another, the big companies spare no expense on talent, with the creative concepts becoming wilder by the tournament in a bid to optimize viral potential. (At least that’s one way to explain the cod-inspirational claptrap and invariably overblown acting.)
This year, the big guns have already started to flex their marketing muscle, unveiling star-studded clips whose budgets no doubt amount to the annual running costs of a lower league football club in England. adidas has dipped into its celebrity influencer and talent pool, enlisting the likes of Pharrell Williams and A$AP Ferg alongside Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba, while Nike (as seen in the gallery above) has blown the dust off its archive reel, paying tribute to the aforementioned legendary Rio airport scene 20 years on. There’s even room for international retiree Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has been tapped for Visa’s campaign.
With this year’s tournament taking place in Russia, you’ll notice a distinctly Eastern European flavor running through some of the clips. Keep an eye out for updates to this page as the tournament progresses and new ads arrive.
Now peep the World Cup kits ranked from worst to best.