With World Cup commercials, an all-time list of the best 10 isn’t quite all time because of the lack of commercials that are easily accessible prior to 1998. Still, there are plenty of gems to be watched again and again as anticipation builds for Brazil, and we’re already seeing betting odds on the World Cup. Hopefully the best World Cup advertisements are yet to come.
Here are the top 10 World Cup commercials of all time:
10. 2010 ESPN Classic – England 5, Germany 1
It wasn’t a World Cup game, but it’s possibly England’s favorite post-1966 moment. The 5-1 drubbing of Germany in a 2002 qualifier will forever live in the mind, but ESPN Classic gave it a voice in this little-known spot promoting classic games in the lead-up to the 2010 tournament. It’s a low-budget ad, but it’s essentially British – even if the people portrayed don’t have that certain air of gloom necessary.
9. 1998 MasterCard – Price to Paris
It’s not easy always easy to find commercials from the pre 2002 World Cups, and certainly the most recent World Cup has advantages in these rankings. But this MasterCard effort from France ’98 is worthy because it beautifully portrays France, along with the hopes and dreams of fans traveling to the World Cup Finals.
8. 2002 Nike – Knockout
This ad is very close to the Jose Adidas effort from 2006, but it’s a little darker. These games seem like they’re being played in some faraway dungeon, a fantasy of what soccer at it’s highest and purest level can be. Only the sportswear companies can gather so many legends of the game at one time, and Nike takes full advantage here.
7. 2010 ESPN – Robben Island
The host nation for a World Cup is always highlighted for the world to see. South Africa was a special host, and it was a country with special stories. This one, about a soccer league forming on Robben Island during apartheid is as true as it is poetic poignant, and hopeful.
6. 2006, ESPN/ABC – Closes The Shops
ESPN/ABC’s 2006 World Cup coverage wasn’t exactly a bright spot in the tournament’s media history, but this ad gets it just right. The game of soccer is so simple, and so powerful at the same time. At World Cup time, it shuts down the world so it can change it forever.
5. 2014, VISA – Rossi Walks Into a Barbershop
This is a particularly fun ad, showing the international bonds and scars that World Cups leave. The idea – Paulo Rossi walks into a barbershop in Brazil — is fantastic. The theme of the world coming together is also present.
4. 2006, adidas – Jose Picks Teams
This is certainly the dream of all kids, right? Choosing between the best players in international football history for your backyard team is hard to beat. This ad also has the requisite innocence and humor of “Sandlot”, and the perfect ending – the kid being called in for dinner.
3. 2010, ESPN – Martin Tyler
This isn’t a particularly grand commercial, or a particularly memorable one. This 30-second spot promoted Martin Tyler’s coming to ESPN for the 2010 tournament. But with the scenes awash with sun, and Tyler’s sage and commanding voice steering the ad, you could feel that something great was on the horizon. U2’s Beautiful Day only added to that notion.
2. 1998, Nike Soccer Airport Commercial
Nike’s commercial for the 1998 Brazilian World Cup team is fun, memorable and a commercial you can watch over and over again. It’s filled with so many wonderful true-to-life Brazilian characters. Watching Ronaldo hit the post, Cafu dribbling the ball as well as cameos by Roberto Carlos and Eric Cantona are the icing on the cake. Plus, did you know that the commercial was directed by John Woo of Face/Off fame?
1. 2010, ESPN – United
This advertisement captures better than any other the true power of the World Cup. It isn’t magical. It isn’t all-knowing or all-healing. It can’t fix the world, or even change it in a large way. But for that one month, every four years, it brings together a world that has so much division and misery. It’s more than a truce. It’s a party. The images in this ad are breathtaking, and the voice-over and background music are perfect. This is the best World Cup advertisement ever.
What did I miss, or rank incorrectly? Share your feedback in the comments section below.