Latin Beat and Soccer Moves Done Freestyle for Nike

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Client: Nike
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
Star Rating: 3.5

Not long ago, an inquiring civilian broke through security and accosted the AdReview entourage. "What's the best TV advertising?" he pleaded, as he knelt to kiss our hem.

'Futbol,' Nike's latest spot, is a sinuous mix of Latin drum music and soccer moves.

Hmm. Excellent question. Once the wretch was dragged off by the police, the staff huddled up and gave the matter some thought. Discounting individual spots and even single pools of spots, we soon agreed that the best TV advertising, on balance, over a long period, worldwide, belongs to Nike.

Duh ... the only campaign of its generation to actually be inseparable in the value equation from the product itself. Eventually, for example, we'll get to its most recent spot, running in Latin America, called "Futbol."

Other great campaigns
There were two other candidates, however. The first was the long-running "This is SportsCenter" mockumentary campaign, and the second was the long-running Miller High Life campaign that affectionately, hilariously defines joie de vivre from a blue-collar point of view. The agency for ESPN SportsCenter is Wieden & Kennedy, New York. The agency for Miller High Life is Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Whereas Nike advertising is created by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland; Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam; Wieden & Kennedy, London; Wieden & Kennedy, Tokyo and Wieden & Kennedy, New York.

So, let's see ... the three best campaigns on American TV from one agency -- plus the year's best commercial, from the London office: the Rube Goldberg masterpiece for Honda called "Cog." Wouldn't that make Wieden & Kennedy, more or less ipso facto, the best American agency?

Not Goodby, Crispin or Fallon
Well, yes. It would. Not Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. Not Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami. Not Fallon or Deutsch. Not BBDO or DDB or Ogilvy or you name it. As the truth dawned, the staff looked at one another in stunned silence. Not that Wieden's name has never come up in such discussions, but -- Holy Epiphany, Batman! -- suddenly the truth was so clear.

So clear that we have to dismiss as tragic anomalies the horrendous 1998 Diet Coke stuff about the loser college grad living with his folks, and the shockingly unfunny 2000 Olympics takeoff on chain-saw violence, and the desperate 1992 last gasps of the Subaru account, featuring a supposed GenXer blathering obnoxiously about corporate rock 'n' roll. Because, for the past 15 years, this agency clearly has represented the best of what advertising has to offer.

Oh, yeah ... such as "Futbol."

Another masterpiece
Well, it's another masterpiece, directed by Spike Jonze, the brilliant feature-film director who got his start making ostentatious but basically mediocre TV commercials. This one isn't mediocre. It is, in fact, to soccer what 2001's transcendent "Freestyle" was to basketball -- a cunningly edited, precisely choreographed, irresistible display of ball-handling virtuosity to an amalgam of Latin and hip-hop beats.

In this case, this action is intercut with shots of Latin drum playing, which is fetching viewing in its own right, but nothing next to the sleight-of-foot displayed by the soccer players. Needless to say, those magic feet are shod exclusively in Nikes. But more magical still is the Nike/Wieden synthesis of sport, cinema, culture and swoosh.

Whether you stare agog at the soccer-playing virtuosity or at the commercial-making virtuosity, this is a 60-second documentary of genius at work.