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Football mania has hit the shores of Qatar and with Ecuador taking on the host nation in the first match on 20 November 2022, football fans are up for some electrifying sporting moments this World Cup. And, while the road to the golden trophy is still a long one, check out some of the best World Cup ads of all time to keep the sporting fervour high.

Every four years, when the biggest football event returns to the stadiums, the tournament kicks in a spurt of creativity. Whether it is the official sponsor or simply any other company banking on the FIFA World Cup for brand promotion, ads and campaigns flood the television screens and ignite the minds of spirited football fanatics.

This year, football legend Lionel Messi and iconic stars Neymar Jr and Raheem Sterling have come together for a Budweiser ad which bears the tagline “No Matter Your Tunnel, The World Is Yours To Take.” Besides such a stellar lineup, this new 2022 football ad sends out a very positive message of overcoming inhibitions in the tunnel and conquering the field of life.

As the world is turned towards Qatar, we have rounded up some of the most memorable campaigns and commercials over the years that are forever etched in the memories of all football fans.

Relive old games with some of the best FIFA World Cup ads ever made

Carlsberg ‘Old Lions’ (2006)

Speak of classic brand positioning and Carlsberg’s 2006 ‘Old Lions’ hits the nail on the head when it ends this iconic campaign with “Carlsberg don’t do pub teams, but if it did, they would probably be the best pub team in the world.”

The 3-minute long ad tickles the funny bones with perfect comic timings by some of England’s greatest retired footballing legends. The ad opens with Jack Charlton taking his team to an old football pitch, where players such as Peter Shilton, Des Walker, Chis Waddle and Peter Beardsley make up the Old Lion pub team. Some moments make this ad more iconic — Sir Bobby Robson’s team talk is interrupted when Stuart Pearce has to take a call from his mother, and Jackie Charlton is shown a yellow card for ‘shirt pulling.’ A peek into a dressing room with these legends is a real treat for any football fan.

Adidas ‘José +10’ (2006)

A pair of young boys assemble an all-star squad, from across generations, to play a round of playful neighbourhood football until one of them, José, is called back by his mother for tea.

A seemingly simple World Cup ad by the sneaker giant created by 180 Amsterdam, this World Cup campaign shows the passion and innocence of children who play the game along with stalwarts such as Zinedine Zidane, Frank Lampard, David Beckham, Kaka and Franz Beckenbauer. The way it is shot, the raw essence of the backyard game and the players having a fun time with the young kids, make this ad campaign, for such a grand tournament, a delightful watch.

Carlsberg ‘Team Talk’ (2010)

Ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, this Carlsberg ad by Saatchi & Saatchi was created to evoke support and gather loud cheers for the England team.

Blazing words from England’s manager Stuart Pearce adds to the tense atmosphere in the dressing room as this ad spot takes cues from Henry V’s speeches when it says, “Make no mistake. It’s you. Eleven men. Eleven English men against the rest of the world. A world that can’t wait to dump you out and rub your noses in it…”

The sporting fervour escalates as the team is charged up and the men rise to leave and take on the field. Just then the deep voiceover says, “So be strong, do it for your country, do it for the fans, for Bobby…” in a tribute to the late Sir Bobby Robson. As the team leaves the tunnel, a roaring lion waits at the head and England supporters can feel the adrenaline rushing through their veins as the ad ends with “If Carlsberg did team talks…,” making it an unforgettable campaign.

However, despite such an encouraging commercial, England faced a crushing defeat.

Nike ‘Airport’ (1998)

This 1998 Nike spot set the bar high early for all the other ensuing World Cup ads. The ad shows the then Brazil national team kickstarting a friendly round of football magic at a busy Rio de Janeiro airport. The ad holds a special place in our hearts for the sheer icons onscreen who create wonders with the ball that do not require any special effects to win you over.

Featuring sporting OGs such as Ronaldo, Romario and Cafu, the ad created by Wieden & Kennedy sees the team waiting at the airport terminal and soon hitting off a friendly match inside the enclosed area which takes fellow passengers (including a short cameo by Eric Cantona) by surprise. The action soon reaches the runway where the players kick the ball before a taxiing aircraft and send it flying through X-Ray tunnels, luggage conveyor belts and even over a helicopter. Football mania reaches its peak when Ronaldo aims for a goal between two metal stands but misses it.

That year, Brazil did reach the finals but bowed out to France in a crushing 3-0 defeat.

Adidas ‘Footballitis’ (2002)

Commonly brands go pro-sport and highlight encouraging moments in any commercial ahead of the World Cup tournament. However, Adidas takes a risky move but hits the right notes with the humorous ‘Footballitis’ campaign.

Wonder what Footballitis is? Well, the sneaker giant says, “There is no cure but we are working on an ointment.” This ailment can affect star players, normal people as well as animals who react to normal situations as if they are on the field. Starring Beckham, this campaign eschews the trodden path and shows the iconic player sitting lowly on a chair instead of balancing the ball, while small terrier dogs huddle near a goal post.

The 180 Amsterdam Adidas commercial ends with the introduction of a dense brown gel-like substance, which can apparently cure this acute condition.

Pepsi ‘Sumo’ (2002)

When the tournament kicks off in Japan and South Korea, it is not surprising to see an ad campaign featuring the mighty sumo wrestlers. And who better to go up against them than footballing stars such as Beckham, Raul, Roberto Carlos and Edgar Davids.

The spot opens with the World Cuppers practising in a Japanese training camp when six sumo wrestlers approach them. When Beckham asks, “So, what are we playing for?” one of them replies “Pepsi.” The stalwarts are sent to the bench after they face a cruising defeat before the huge stature and height of the wrestlers who are shown enjoying a crate of cool drinks as they walk off wearing the players’ shirts. “Amatuer” one of them grunts.

Beats by Dre ‘The Game Before the Game’ (2014)

In 2014, Dr Dre was not an official sponsor of the tournament, yet the brand overcame hurdles and made a mark with this campaign created by R/GA London without using the words ‘world’ or ‘cup’.

Starring a number of iconic players including Neymar Jr and cameos from Lil Wayne, LeBron James and Nicki Minaj, this World Cup ad begins with the Brazilian star, wearing a vibrant headphone, getting a booster talk from his father. It then shows fans and celebs from around the world getting ready for the game as Neymar gets mobbed by the paparazzi and takes the field.

Interestingly, when Germany lifted the trophy that year, each player was given a pair of 24-carat gold headphones.

Nike ‘Write the future’ (2010)

From starring Wayne Rooney to briefly featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Fabio Cannavaro, Didier Drogba, tennis star Roger Federer, NBA star Kobe Bryant, actor Gael Garcia Bernal and even Homer Simpson, Nike’s ‘Write The Future’ spot has it all. The commercial helped the brand catapult to a high position for pulling off brilliant star-studded World Cup campaigns.

As the papers read, ‘Let’s Roo It,’ this sports commercial shows a full day in the life of the star player Rooney. Starting with saving a heart-thumping goal, the ad shows him as a pot-bellied bearded man in a dilapidated van, a young guy drawing the centre circle on a muddy field, transforming to perform a slide tackle against France and hugging the Queen while being knighted, it comes all so effortlessly to the England icon.

McDonald’s ‘What Practice Makes’ (1994)

The official sponsor of the 1994 tournament, the fairly plain and simple McDonald’s spot is a delight to watch as it conveys some important messages as well as pins on the classic fast food joint’s branding of its takeaway option.

It opens with a young Scott Parker, who takes the name Jimmy, sporting a red and white jersey and a classic 1990s sporty haircut. He is seen practising some keepy uppy and balancing the ball on a backyard pitch when suddenly his mother calls out to him as the family leaves for McDonald’s. The voiceover says, “This commercial is dedicated to all those who know what practice makes,” as Jimmy continues his practice.

Coca Cola ‘Drink Coke’ (1982)

Any list on this beautiful game has to bear the name of the ‘Hand of God’ Diego Maradona. The late Argentinian legend has always enthralled football fans whenever he appeared in a World Cup commercial, and this 1982 advertisement features him in his prime.

When a young fan approaches Maradona and offers him a sip of the aerated beverage, Maradona refuses at first but later gives in only to chug the whole drink. He does make it up to the kid by giving him his jersey just before he leaves. Something fanatics can’t even imagine in their wildest dreams!

Nike ‘The Wall’ (1994)

Laying the seeds of Nike’s supremacy in the ad segment, this 1994 commercial has a ball being thrown around the cities as football stars kick it around from their posters hung from walls. The campaign involves some cool special effects as the ball soars in the sky and is passed down by players like Ian Wright, Eric Cantona and Romario.

The spot paved the way for innovative campaigns and the use of new technology for upcoming World Cup campaigns as well as set a great example of using a stellar star cast.

Mars ‘Singing For England’ (2010)

Why should only retail sportswear giants and beverage companies have all the fun? Mars’ 2010 ad brings back a splash of nostalgia by using John Barnes’ rap number from the 1990 hit track “World in Motion.”

Barnesy slips a cassette into a soundbox in a London park and soon launches into the rap as others groove to its beats. Barnes joins in the fun and claps and shakes a leg too before starting the rap. The ad does feel weird now, but you cannot deny the throwback feel it ushers in and the festive mood it must have created during the tournament a decade back.

(Main Image: Courtesy YouTube screengrab/ Nike Australia; Featured Image: Courtesy Fauzan Saari/ @fznsr_/ Unsplash)