Soccer — or what we refer to as fútbol — is more than just a soccer game. And when the World Cup comes around, our passion for the game is on another level! Together with the support of State Farm®, we’re celebrating the fandom, the pasión and the Latino pride we share during this cultural moment.
Soccer is still the world’s number one international sport and the World Cup is by and large the most popular sporting event on the planet. In 2018, half the globe watched at some point during the monthlong showdown, with 1.1 billion people tuning in to the final between France and Croatia.
Unsurprisingly, the commercials that air during the games are next-level incredible. Boasting bigger budgets and more intricate concepts than just about anything you’ll see during the Super Bowl, World Cup commercials have enjoyed an enduring legacy, with people regularly revisiting them five, 10, even 20 years after they originally aired.
In honor of this year’s Qatar World Cup, we wanted to look back at the Cup’s nine best commercials of all time. Most of them were made by Nike, which seems to have one of the most dedicated creative teams in the world when it comes to the World Cup, but all nine of our entries are so good every time we watch them we get goosebumps.
9. “Take It to the Next Level” (2008)
Let’s say you want to make the most epic World Cup ad in the history of the game: what do you do? Well, first, you hire “Snatch” director Guy Ritchie, then you gather every major name of the era, shoot it in first-person so you can really see the action up close, and let the editing do the rest. There is not a single World Cup ad with the same relentless, unceasing, unforgiving action that makes this commercial one for the history books. Let’s put it this way: any soccer commercial that features not one but two moments where a player vomits is pretty much guaranteed to get the blood pumping.
8. “Bavaria” (2006)
This hilarious and charming Pepsi ad features David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, and Ronaldinho, among others, as they compete against a Bavarian dance team dressed in traditional garb. Set to some accordion-heavy German music, the ad has a playful, carefree spirit that is as infectious as it is engaging. Watching these pros break a sweat trying to beat the Bavarian dancers will never not be funny, and the commercial is one of the most timeless on our list.
7. “Retirement Home” (2010)
This adorable ad from Sony has England’s Three Lions bosses, Graham Taylor and Terry Venables, playing residents at an upscale retirement community as they prepare to tune into the 2010 World Cup. Shepherded to the recreation room by a nurse played by Kelly Brook and a handyman played by Stuart Pearce, the bosses are dismayed to see the TV being wheeled away until they realize it’s being replaced by a high-definition, flat-screen Sony TV. To top it all off, former Scottish footballer Kenny Dalglish makes an appearance, sitting himself down as close to the TV as possible.
6. “Write the Future” (2010)
Nike’s 2010 ad focuses on the collective joy generated by soccer fans around the world. As far as this ad is concerned, the World Cup stops the rotation of the Earth and sits quietly as every person on this tiny blue dot we call home drops every obligation and all responsibility to see teams from around the world duke it out for the top spot. The ad focuses on striker Wayne Rooney, who was playing for Manchester United at the time, but features appearances by everyone from Ronaldhino to Cristiano Ronaldo to the late and great Kobe Bryant.
5. “José +10” (2006)
This two-part ad was voted the best of 2006 and it’s easy to see why: this endlessly entertaining (and, frankly, adorable) ad takes the love of the game to a whole other level. The ad features two young boys named José and Pedro as they choose their dream teams comprised of stars like David Beckham, Djibril Cisse, Lionel Messi, Franz Beckenbauer, and more. The two teams engage in some no-holds-barred competition, but the lingering feeling is one of sportsmanship, where competitors fight to win but leave their drama on the field.
4. “Journey of Football” (2010)
This unforgettable ad celebrating African soccer players like Samuel Eto’o, Emmanuel Eboue, and Mohammed Zidan is a testament to the game’s borderless appeal and unifying forces. Telling a mostly wordless story of local camaraderie that snowballs into global representation, “Journey of Football” is the rare World Cup ad that’s both completely thrilling and emotionally resonant. Beloved by many and considered one of the best ads of all time, PUMA’s stroke of genius endures all these years later because its message is one of love, for the game and the people who play it.
3. “Footballitis” (2002)
By and large the goofiest entry on this list, “Footballitis” seems like it was made for the sole purpose of getting the world’s biggest soccer stars to act as silly as possible. The ad pits players like David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, and Alessandro Del Piero against a team of scientists studying a rare affliction called Footballitis, which causes enthusiasts of the game to continuously play the game even if there isn’t a ball to play with. This unforgettably hilarious ad is still a fan favorite 20 years after it originally aired.
2. “Sumo” (2002)
This small but mighty Pepsi ad sees some of the game’s most notable names getting their butts handed to them by a team of sumo wrestlers who really want to win a cooler full of the popular soda. Robert Carlos, David Beckham, Edgar Davids, and Raul are unsuccessful in their attempts to beat the opposing team of wrestlers, and it’s not like they really had much of a chance, to begin with. The biggest stars in soccer are no match for the lineup of large, agile, and passionate fighters they’re pitted against.
1. “Brazil at the Airport” (1998)
No list of World Cup commercials would be complete without what is unequivocally and undeniably the greatest ad of all time. “Brazil at the Airport” is the gold standard of soccer ads and there’s no point in trying to explain why. When you watch it you will know all you need to know. This ad also features some of the most creative and joyful images the small screen has ever seen. Even the 20th-anniversary reboot couldn’t come close. More than two decades later, we may take for granted the influence this ad has had on every single one that followed, but none of them are like “Brazil at the Airport.”
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