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Nike Fails In Bid To Write The Future


Cup Quarters Devoid Of
Stars From Glitzy Mega-Ad

One Great Season

When Nike unveiled its three-minute Alejandro González Iñárritu-helmed World Cup "Write the Future" mega-ad, one thing amidst all the pageantry appeared just slightly out of place: Ronaldinho, prominently featured in the spot, didn't quite make the Brazil squad. It seemed a gross miscalculation on the Swoosh's part, considering the fading Milan maestro hadn't been picked for the Selecao since April 2009. But as the big names rolled out and the cameos piled up, there perhaps grew a sneaking suspicion that this first failure, emulated so pointlessly by Kobe Bryant, would in fact prove a sign of things to come.

And it wasn't just Ronaldinho. Theo Walcott, after all, missed out on a place in the England team, never to be the target of a misplaced Wayne Rooney pass, the most painfully prophetic aspect of the whole video. A week prior to the tournament, Didier Drogba, the first bold-faced superstar we see, suffered a broken elbow in a friendly against Japan, throwing his availability into question and ultimately spiking his influence. And France's Franck Ribery has had a few months to forget: he missed Bayern Munich's Champions League final for a reckless tackle in the previous round; arrived in South Africa under investigation for sleeping with an underaged prostitute (he faces up to 3 years if convicted); reportedly played a key role in locker room divisions and the sad mutiny against coach Raymond Domenech; and did next to nothing on the field.

EXTRA: Complete World Cup Coverage From One Great Season

These players suffered their misfortunes before the commercial ever aired. Others had to wait until they laced up those fancy purple and orange boots.

After a series of geriatric showings led to a group-stage elimination, it's safe to say that Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro won't be getting the C'e Capitano treatment from Bobby Solo and his sequined band of flying figurantes and cartwheeling dudes in wifebeaters.

Patrice Evra was apparently in it, too. But blink and you'll miss him, just like at the World Cup. His most notable contribution was to lead the aforementioned French mutiny against the man who'd named him captain.

Rooney at least made it to the Round of 16, though he failed to score and, I imagine, will fail to be knighted. But let's not bet against him throwing a lager bottle through his bedroom mirror. And while Cristiano Ronaldo did manage to put one run on the board in that 7-0 boxscore over North Korea, the people of Portugal may have to lay that giant statue on the ground if they want to truly commemorate his performance at this World Cup.

Indeed, it looked for a fleeting, glorious moment that Tim Howard and Landon Donovan, awarded a whopping split-second joint cameo, would turn out to be the unlikely success stories of the ad. That is, until a Kevin-Prince Boateng wormburner and some shifty Scouser strumpet killed that dream.

All that's left are three envious Spaniards: Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique. But Cesc might want to pick that paper back up as he'll need something to read while riding the bench. The latter two, however, are enjoying a fantastic World Cup, and have so far emerged as the only players worthy of such glitzy apotheosis.

So go ahead, write the future, fellas. But the way it's going, that future will see Paraguay in the semifinals.

Click here for Jeremy's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Advertising Giants Won't Drink To Empty Cup

Dutch Soccer Fans

Ambush Marketing
Keeps Nike, Bavaria
In The Spotlight

One Great Season

After a week of World Cup games, you probably think Nike is among the event's largest sponsors.

Considering many of the players are rocking boots from the Oregon-based apparel giant, and that not-so-subtle "Write The Future" television ad or a variation of it replays almost every commercial break, you'd think the Swoosh and FIFA enjoyed a formal and mutually beneficial partnership.

But despite its slightly inferior advertising presence, Adidas is actually the official equipment sponsor of the Cup. What practically amounts to ambush marketing has allowed Nike to reach the many millions of global Cup viewers without any trouble.

It's not the first time Nike has been accused of the ambush technique. At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, the Swoosh erected Nike billboards and even built a Nike village next to the athletes' official village, diluting Reebok's presence as the Games' official equipment partner.

Sponsorship of major sporting events is obviously big business, with seven- and sometimes eight-figure deals requiring protection in almost the same way heads of state attending this Cup need personal security.

Which is why Budweiser, the official beer sponsor of World Cup 2010, enjoyed watching event organizers Tuesday round up 36 young women sporting orange mini-dresses in a promotion for Dutch brewery Bavaria. Outside of the obvious reasons for enjoying watching 36 young women in orange mini-dresses, Budweiser liked this stunt even more because the hotties and their superiors behind the move were accused of "unlawful commercial activities" after they were kicked out of the Netherlands-Denmark game on Tuesday, according to the BBC.

Like Nike, Bavaria has prior experience with ambush marketing on the global stage. Click here to read about its 2006 World Cup strategy.


March Adness: Cheers To Dos Equis

If you're like us, you've probably got some opinions on the many commercials you absorbed (or ignored) in front of your television or computer watching the NCAA Tournament all weekend. That's why we thought we'd take a different route today and have once again asked Steve Susi, founder of branding consultancy Brand Spanking New York, to chime in with his thoughts on a few of the ads aired/streamed the most often during those many (oh, so many) timeouts.

Special To One Great Season

Of course, we all know the Super Bowl is the holy grail of football, and — aside from the self-absorbed ad industry itself — probably the only time and place where advertising is legitimately included in the main event. But long after the cocktail flu kept you home that fateful following Monday has faded, the month of March belongs to the high-profile NCAA Basketball Tournament, which has in its own right become a hugely important vehicle on the media calendar. For advertisers with new creative seeking a "captive audience" (if that even exists anymore outside of a jail cell) of college-educated, 18-to-59 year-old men to show it to, these few weeks of Madness represent the first reason to live since Drew Brees shocked the world with his admission that he was going to Disneyworld.

Over the course of this frenetic weekend, here are the five spots which appeared to be in heaviest rotation and their requisite critiques

Dos Equis, "Snow Monkeys", "Lady Luck", "Ice Fishing" (Euro RSCG)
Courtesy of Euro here in New York, the latest ad flight of the “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign from Dos Equis stands as one of the few beacons of creativity remaining, seemingly, on earth. Or at least the American TV ad landscape. His mother has a tattoo that reads "son." How much fun is it to handle this account? Must be great. Excellent scriptwriting (by now a constant), tasteful shooting, and A-plus editing render this marketing push the best in broadcast by far today. And what often goes uncelebrated in rare moments like these is how smart and gutsy the clients are. Talented creatives can be found in agencies all over the country (and world), but it’s only because of great clients that spots like these see the light of day. (Client-side marketing execs, this means you.)

Miller Lite "Love – L-L-Love" (DraftFCB)
In stark contrast to the above, this beer campaign succeeds only in its achievement of greater levels of embarrassment. Someone please tell me what DraftFCB and their clients at Miller Lite are thinking, assuming they are. We all know that it’s been the currency of beermakers for decades to prey on the young single guy’s inability to commit to relationships as fodder for their ads. But what research is showing men are now being forced to choose between the two? Not sure about your college, but in my experience, they were often found together in close quarters. Anyway the campaign isn’t funny, and worse, what the hell kind of alcoholic is your target that he’s ready to sacrifice his dog, mother, and okay-looking girlfriend for a bottle of see-thru beer? Bad, half-brained, insulting.

Southwest Airlines "Battle Cry" (GSD&M)
The Texan discount carrier is betting that the US traveler is so against bag fees that he'll select the friendly airline famous for it’s Cincinnati-Who-concert-bumrush-style seating process. That might be a stretch in my opinion, but whatever. What certainly will be a stretch is the public’s tolerance of seeing this spot 20 times every basketball game. The five-second shelf-life of the humor of outta-shape Joe Sixpacks removing their shirts to reveal “BAGS FLY FREE” painted across their collective chests is so predictable, but not insulting or anything like that. It’s just, now that ad inventory has plummeted throughout the TV world in favor of more digitally focused media budgets, the traditional advertisers left standing see their spots rotating over and over again during any given program, guaranteeing viewer fatigue and annoyance and multiplying exponentially its lack of surprise. This one included.

Capital One, "Ivan Brothers" (DDB Chicago)
“What’s in Your Mullet?” has to be one of the most universally despised campaigns in history. (The “Hands in Your Pocket” spot that ran in Canada is the high point, and the David Spade units were OK, I guess.) For nearly a decade we’ve been treated to nitwit dads and buffoon desert island castaways performing low-quality slapstick before delivering the same rhetorical question/tagline. (I’ll give them that, though — consistency is key to great branding; unfortunately for the world’s largest credit card issuer, so is interesting, relevant creative). But this new “Visigoths” push takes mediocrity to brand new heights of dumb. Our country is so litigious that no one can target anyone as the butt of a joke anymore because the client might be sued or flamed by some watchdog organization, so agencies are left to create stories around fictitious “people.” (See also Geico’s “Cavemen.”) Sure, this alleviates legal risk. But how much longer are we going to be subjected to these idiot Vikings (including Ogre from "Revenge of the Nerds") with Cockney accents putting change in their laptop disk drives, sniffing rental bowling shoes, putting a mace through the airport metal detector, bringing goats to the ski slope, and raising bearded children? Who wrote these things, seventh-graders? Enough already. I speak for the world when I beg of thee: please, please stop. With sprinkles on top.

HP, "Let’s Do Amazing" (72andSunny)
I want so badly for this new $40 million campaign for the computer giant from 72andSunny — a departure from HP's agency of record, San Francisco’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners — to be great, what with the casting of Kiwi comic genius Rhys Darby of "Flight Of the Conchords" and all, but they’ve underwhelmed. Smacking of Cisco’s current campaign, which uses Ellen Page to go around her hometown and explore the awe-inspiration that is Cisco, we see Darby barge in on Dr. Dre during a recording session, bumble with questions at a UPS facility, and touch things he shouldn’t in The Venetian’s security office. That’s it? Come on, guys. When the best bit you write in for a hilarious dude like Rhys is his little beat-boxish noises at the end of the Dre spot (which I do find genuinely funny), you’ve wasted a massive opportunity to separate yourself from other tech concerns like, lo and behold, Ellen and Cisco. I pray we see you flex your comedy-writing muscles (or let Darby do it) soon.

Be sure to give Susi a follow on Twitter. He's at @BrandSpankingNY.