Brothers and sisters, I’m here today to set you free. I am giving you express, written permission to not give a crap about soccer during this summer’s FIFA World Cup.
In fact, you can start not paying attention now. You might have to, as marketers have already gone into swarm mode. Adidas, Nike, Visa, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola: they’re all here, they’re all Cup-crazy and they’re all going to blow your mind with slo-mo, artfully tinted footage of footballers in the throes of a mud-spattered kicky-run.
And that’s before the self-appointed soccer ambassadors, who claimed the Most Defensive Fans In Sports conch when the Boston Red Sox stopped self-sabotaging, start in on you. It is the world’s glorious game! Right now, schoolchildren in Namibia are playing football on a dirt field in their bare feet using a clump of hen turd as the ball! The infrequency of scoring is a metaphor for something, probably! If you cannot appreciate the strategy and the skill and the discipline and the gamesmanship - THERE IS NO MORE DIVING IN SOCCER THAN THERE IS IN DIVING - you should be relegated to the sub-sub-sub-sub-Premiership of humankind! A hex on your sporting house, nit!
Don’t get me wrong, soccer is a fine sport. It is enjoyed by a great many people around the world, a great many more than enjoy my preferred leisure pursuits. The unbridled athleticism of the players, the gonzo rushes down the pitch, the on-the-sleeve passion of the fans: these are all things I acknowledge and admire, except for when the on-the-sleeve passion bleeds over into one of those pesky -isms (racism, fascism, etc.). I just don’t like soccer as much as I do other sports, is all. It’s nothing personal. It’s not you, it’s me. You had me at “hello.” You lost me at “what a reprehensible hospital ball!”
But soccer adherents don’t hear this as one dude’s opinion; they hear it as an indictment of everything they hold sacred. And from the wellspring of World Cup-related campaigns already unveiled, marketers appear to be unable to distinguish between the passion of the many and the appreciation-tinted-by-indifference of the many more. As a result, they’ve decided to blast everybody with pitches and programs willy-nilly.
That’s my best guess at the logic behind “The Dream: All In or Nothing,” the Adidas “brand film” that commences its upcoming World Cup bombardment. In it, the great Lionel Messi has this dream in which he’s, like, playing soccer… but so are the other really awesome players with Adidas endorsement deals, and then Messi is tossing and turning, and then this one guy starts doing ice forest soccer target practice, and then these street urchins flip him the bird, and then we’re at the game and there’s lots of quick-cut footage and a bulge-faced announcer and a Kanye West song and more turning/tossing and Adidas signage and mounted police confronting either a horde of unruly fans or a bunch of extras filming the big revolution scene from Les Misérables and then hugs and happiness and reflection and, poof, Messi wakes up.
The best thing I can say about “The Dream: All in or Nothing” is the best thing I could say about a neon-purple Maserati: It looks very, very expensive. As I understand it, the world’s elite soccer players don’t come cheap, nor does Kanye or the staging of soccer ice forests. The clip is put together in such a way to suggest that Adidas is going for universality - the players come from all reaches of the soccer-crazed world and no single language is spoken. Why, then, does it feel so small? We’ve seen all these tricks before, from the dream motif to the interlaced footage to the thirsting-for-credibility soundtrack. Creatively speaking, there’s nothing here that’s more revolutionary or keenly observed than what we saw in ads for the 2006 Cup.
Also: “All In or Nothing”? If I watch the U.S. men’s team get whitewashed by its foes in the Grupo de Muerte and then turn my attention back to pancakes and needlework, wouldn’t that seem to land in the purgatory between “all in” and “nothing”? “All In or Nothing” sounds less like a conveyance of uber-urgency than it does a rallying cry for a bunch of bros ready to pound brews and introduce themselves to the finest ladies of the greater Saginaw metropolitan area.
Also also: the Adidas boots (lingo!) featured in the clip look as if they were on the losing end of an encounter with the local paintball range.
Also also also: Do not append your YouTube clips with 254 words of explanation. If you are unable to follow the preceding bit of advice, do not include a paragraph of randomly strewn together and grammatically rococo clichés in your YouTube blurb: “Destiny is not fate. You have a choice. Fear or be feared. Hunt or be hunted. Evolve or die. Now or never. It’s black or white. All in or nothing.” If you are unable to follow the preceding bit of advice, please abandon your pursuit of a career in marketing.
Maybe, as a soccer novice, I just don’t get it. Judging by the 30 million YouTube views since its arrival earlier this week, somebody’s interested in “The Dream: All In or Nothing.” But if this is the best that one of the world’s most prominent soccer marketers can do to rev up the masses while simultaneously appealing to the superfans, I shudder at what lesser marketers have in store for us. Brace yourselves for a flash flood of meh.