Despite the fact that Nike, the American sportswear giant, does not sponsor the World Cup, it remains – for many – the brand associated with the competition. In 1998, ahead of the competition in France, the brand released its seminal ‘Airport’ ad featuring the Brazilian national team, all the greats included: Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, and the original Ronaldo.
It’s difficult not to like that ad. For an entire generation of kids, the sound of Bossa Nova became synonymous with footy. What’s more, the ad, close to ridiculous in its depiction of the sport, made you just want to start kicking a football about. Its effects and coloration may look dated now, but it continues to enthral. Nike have had some beautiful ads that leveraged their sponsored sport stars. In 2004 (not a World Cup year, but a continental championship year), the brand once again featured the Brazilian team with a more senior Ronaldo at the helm. His team, queueing in the tunnel ahead of the match faces off against a Portuguese side led by Luis Figo, whose opening gambit is to nutmeg the Brazilian with a derisory ‘Olé!’ They end up playing rough throughout the stadium, bloodying noses and blackening eyes. ‘Papa loves mambo’ never sounded so good.