Nike's toxic talking soccer ball wants you to play dirty

England player Marcus Rashford appears in W+K's latest 'Play New' film ahead of Euro 2020

Published On
Jun 03, 2021

Editor's Pick

Ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, several associated brands and sponsors have been calling for a less toxic atmosphere in soccer—whether it's among fans in the stadium (Heineken), online trolls (BT) or the players themselves. Nike is the latest to double down on that approach, with a new spot in its "Play New" campaign that features a toxic, talking soccer ball.

Speaking in a tough-guy cockney like a character out of a Guy Ritchie movie, the dirty old anthropomorphized ball passes on its out-of-date advice to an aspiring player about how to succeed as a soccer player; be "greedy," find your "nasty streak" and play dirty. "You're either the star of a show or a loser," it says as we see it kicked around and dropped in the mud. It's aggressively mean (telling a player to "get your 'ands off me" ), and it's also sexist, remarking that football is a "man's game."

However, the evil ball gets its come-uppance when Manchester United player and England Euro 2020 squad member Marcus Rashford (who is known for his philanthropy as well as his talent on the pitch) appears and kicks it away, replacing it with a new and clean ball. The spot ends with the "Play New" tagline. 

The spot is by Wieden+Kennedy London and was directed by Rich Hall of Riff Raff Films. Nike is sharing it on social channels including Instagram, as is  Rashford on his Twitter feed. 

It follows the first film in the Nike "Play New" campaign, in which athletes are shown trying out sports for which they're not known, and those returning to sport after lockdown are encouraged to "give it a shot, even if you're garbage."