World Cup's Curse of Nike (& Bad American Mojo)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 7/17/2010 04:10:00 PM

Leave it to an American company to mess up its advertising efforts at the 2010 World Cup, bigtime. Oftentimes, listening to Americans talk about football is like listening to Obama talk about deficit reduction--an exercise in raucous hilarity since they so obviously don't know what they're talking about. So, we shouldn't expect much better when an American company opens its wallet while choosing the wrong ad pitchmen for the biggest football tournament on Earth. Sure, the Adidas Jabulani ball received some bad press from those who couldn't master it like Uruguay's Diego Forlan, but when it came down to it, the Spanish victors still wore the three stripes. Which, of course, leaves us with Nike. In essence, it banked on the most highly compensated and recognizable names to strike gold in South Africa but ended up with a bevy of own goals.

I first glimpsed the three-minute-segment above on ITV. Nike feted the Alejandro G. IƱarritu-directed "Write the Future" prior to the World Cup. Given the characters involved and that a typical ad segment lasts 30 seconds, you can bet it cost a a small fortune. Worse, extended involvement in this megabuck commercial seems to have predicted World Cup failure (some Spanish players appear in a cameo but for less than 3 seconds or so). Consider what happened to some of the prominent characters involved:
  • Didier Drogba - His Ivory Coast crashed out of group stage;
  • Fabio Cannavaro - Italy didn't make it out of the group stage, defending champs didn't win a single match;
  • Wayne Rooney - much-hyped England star didn't score in a second straight World Cup, England thumped by (Adidas-clad) Germany 4-1 in second round;
  • Theo Walcott - England midfielder was left at home by Don Fabio after not following orders and didn't go to South Africa;
  • Franck Ribery - Also didn't score a single goal as France went on strike, didn't make it past the group stage
  • Ronaldinho - Former Brazilian team coach Dunga left him at home, too
  • Cristiano Ronaldo - Scored only once as Portugal wasn't able to in three of four matches; left South Africa a "broken man" [?!]
Friends, if there's any firm that best epitomizes the current American spirit for spending big on losers, it's Nike. Just as the American government spends hundreds of billions on pointless, non-stimulating stimulus, so did Nike waste millions featuring non-performers in its ads. Alas, it was rather subprime. But hey, in its own way Nike does "Write the Future" of the US, eh? Crass commercialism imitates life or something like that.

When an ordinary octopus at a humble German water park gets oodles more attention and its predictions right, I guess that says something about the future of sports marketing. Creativity and spontaneity often attract favourable public attention in a way doomed megabuck play-it-safe efforts don't. It's the private sector equivalent of ladling out pork. I guess some people never learn: Nike, just don't do it.