The 3 best World Cup-related ads

The World Cup dominates the Internet like no other sporting event—and yes, that includes the Super Bowl. Several big websites have rolled out spectacular previews in recent days—Grantland’s Men in Blazers is especially good—and FIFA’s various big sponsors have produced World Cup-related commercials for their quadrennial chance to reach well over a billion pairs of eyes.

From what I’ve seen, here are the best of the lot.

Honorable mention: ESPN

Living in the United States, a list wouldn’t be complete without the self-professed “Worldwide Leader.” This “This is Sportscenter” rendition with US central midfielder Michael Bradley is, in soccer lingo, top class—slightly ahead, in my opinion, of ESPN’s tribute to the American Outlaws, the wildest group of US-themed soccer supporters in the country, and its tribute to soccer-obsessed Brazil.
3. Nike: Winner Stays
Featuring a wild assortment of soccer and pop culture stars, this is my third-favorite commercial. Not to spoil the four-plus minutes of entertainment too much, but I particularly enjoyed Kobe Bryant’s cameo next to Italian star Andrea Pirlo. It felt like an oddly nostalgic moment with Bryant, who grew up in Italy and speaks fluent Italian, sitting alongside one of Italy’s most famous footballers in Pirlo.
2. Nike: The Last Game
I know, the animation is sort of weird. Three minutes in, a cartooned version of retired Brazilian legend Ronaldo is impersonating Nicholas Cage in National Treasure. But in the final sequence of the commercial, Cristiano Ronaldo cleverly flicks the ball into the back of the net and saves the entire sports world, which was pretty awesome.

1. Beats: The Game Before the Game

Neither Nike commercial matches the Beats’ commercial entitled "The Game Before The Game". The opening minute displays an impassioned conversion between Brazilian megastar Neymar Jr. and his father, Neymar Sr. I don’t want to grab quotes from the commercial itself to completely spoil it, but the back-and-forth more than illuminates the sheer significance of the World Cup within Brazil. Then, sequences of other international soccer stars like Cesc Fabregas of Spain and Mario Götze of Germany appear, as they also get ready in the dressing room.

The final moments feature another conversation between father and son, as Neymar Jr. exits the tunnel. Neymar Sr. beckons for his son to basically channel God on the pitch. Without engaging in a religious discussion, I will simply contend that Neymar Sr.’s words only intensify the spectacle of the moment.

No one ends those five minutes of pure joy without some wayward desire to run out onto the pitch. Somehow, the Beats commercial makes the ridiculous possibility of playing in a World Cup feel weirdly tangible. Perhaps it’s because footballers like Neymar Jr. appear no different than you or me. The commercial humanizes them—a collection of the world’s greatest athletes—and teases us with the chance to amaze the world.

In reality, though, all us mortals can do is spend the next month at the World Cup’s mercy following along on television or, of course, on YouTube.


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