World Cup fever hits advertising world

June 14, 2018

By Steve Hood

The day is finally here as the world’s largest sporting event takes centre stage as World Cup 2018 kicks off today as hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia in Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.

Football fans all around the globe have been waiting for this day for four years so that they can cheer on their nation with blind faith and supreme optimism. Sweepstakes are the staple in offices around the country (I have Belgium in the P+S sweepstake) but also flooding screens is the latest wave of advertisements from some of the world’s leading brands.

So, with the Opening Ceremony just hours away, I’ve taken a more detailed look at some of my favourite examples of how to do it and some who maybe missed their mark.

Nike Futebol – Vai na Brasileiragem

Straight in with my favourite ad I’ve seen ahead of the World Cup thus far. Starting off with a selection of Brazil’s stars in a changing room playing pranks and nutmegging Chelsea player Willian showing the social media age we’re now in.

However, unlike some ads for the World Cup, this ad isn’t packed with stars. It’s more of a powerful look at how much football means to the country of Brazil with a gentle nod in the direction of a historic Nike/Brazil ad ahead of the 1998 World Cup.

Brazil will be looking to put their nightmare performance of four years ago behind them bouncing back this tournament. 2018’s World Cup will be a big one for Brazil, spearheaded not only with talent but passion.

As the ad comes to a close, a young child delivers a stirring team talk featuring the line ‘This is Brazil. No fear! This jersey has history!’ This really hits home proving Nike have definitely hit the nail on the head with this ad and will be hoping that their Samba stars will do the same in Russia. 

Adidas – Create the Answer

From one athletic brand to another and second example of how to do it. However, Adidas has taken a slightly different approach by cramming as many global stars into one 90-second ad as possible.

Although this ad isn’t as World Cup-themed as others out there, I’ve still decided to include it due to the sheer volume of football’s finest on show.

Narrated by A$AP Ferg, the spotlight is on creativity whilst the football stars do their thing inside a metal cage. The sole purpose of the ad is to shift the focus onto young creators worldwide inviting them to rewrite the rules proclaiming, ‘creativity is the answer’. 

Gatorade – Heart of a Lio

This animated powerhouse from Gatorade focuses on the struggles of one of the world’s best Lionel Messi and his pursuit of a world cup win.

Starting off showing a crying new-born Lio control a teardrop with his wand of a left foot and builds through the history of teams trying to stop this little magician. It tracks his moves from Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina and his realisation of his growth defect which stunted his growth.

However, he gets visited by an adult version of himself who tells him to ‘not give up on his dreams’. A re-invigorated Messi then moves on to Barcelona where the ad recreates some of his best moves and gets proclaimed the world’s best.

Then we move onto Messi’s history disappointment on the International stage before seeing the younger version of himself come back to pick him up and push him towards a World Cup win. The film ends with the tagline ‘Gatorade: Win from Within’.

Beats by Dre – Made Defiant: The Mixtape

Headphone manufacturer Beats enlisted the help of award-winning director Guy Ritchie to deliver the latest instalment in their Made Defiant campaign.

As one of the longer ads in this list (just over four minutes), this mini-movie takes the viewer on a trip around the world showcasing different Beats-sponsored players such as England’s Harry Kane, Germany’s Mesut Ozil, Brazil’s Neymar Jr and France’s Benjamin Mendy to name a few.

The cinematic feel to the ad follows in the footsteps of previous Beats campaigns which have become a bit of a hallmark for the brand. Of course, the ad has some Guy Ritchie spin on it as Peaky Blinders star Paul Anderson narrates the piece in a heavy cockney accent.

It’s a very funny ad featuring some superb cameo appearances – definitely worth a watch.

Lidl – Dream Big with Lidl

Following the announcement of Lidl becoming the Official Supermarket of the England football team (yes that’s apparently a thing now) they teamed up with some Three Lions players to focus on the grassroots aspect of the game with a bit of comedy thrown in.

In the ad, Raheem Sterling is grilled about things he is faster than, Kyle Walker being told that he doesn’t know what pressure is and Gary Cahill is made to roar by two youngsters who spotted the England crest on his kit.

However, there is a deeper meaning to all this as it’s a bit of a showcase of how much Lidl have been involved with grassroots football in the UK over the past three years where they have provided opportunities for over three million young boys and girls to play the beautiful game. 


On the opposite end of the spectrum you now have two ads which have caused just the smallest bit of uproar – so let’s start with the infamous Paddy Power ‘England ‘Til I Dye’ campaign

Paddy Power – England ‘Til I Dye

No stranger to controversy, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power enraged people across the world with their latest PR stunt where they appeared to spray-paint a St George’s cross onto a polar bear.

Although this was an elaborate stunt to draw attention to the plight of the polar bear in the Russian Arctic. Paddy Power has since released a follow-up film revealing ‘the truth about why we sprayed a polar bear’.

This isn’t the first time Paddy Power have caused controversy with their marketing tactics. Ahead of 2014’s World Cup in Brazil, they released their ‘Shave the Rainforest’ campaign which again drew significant heat from the general public before revealing it was all photo-shopped and that they have struck up a partnership with Greenpeace to make the people care about the rainforest.

Although potentially in poor taste, you have to say that Paddy Power knows their target audience.

MasterCard – Start Something Priceless

Credit card giant MasterCard was met with intense backlash for their Start Something Priceless campaign with The Drum’s Stephen Lepitak labelled it ‘The worst marketing I’ve ever seen’.

In short, the ad featured Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr where MasterCard announced that for every goal these two players score in Russia, they would donate 10,000 free meals to children in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On the surface, not a bad gesture. However, when potential lives are put in the hands of footballers where there is no certain outcome – social media were rightly up in arms.

MasterCard faced significant reaction for this campaign that only a few days after it was launched in the UK, the ad was pulled from the nation’s screens.


No matter what the outcome of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we've seen some brilliant and shocking displays from content creators and long may it continue.