Or, mere minutes ahead of the 2014 World Cup kickoff, are you already kind of soccered-out?
It’s not like the run-up has been without controversy. Indeed, we’ve been inundated with stories about the country’s still-unfinished stadiums, and mounting security and traffic woes. When interviewed, most Brazilian citizens have complained about the billions wasted on the event when the local economy and people are suffering. Then there’s always the corruption angle: Apparently, the nature of the FIFA organization is such that it makes the International Olympics Committee look like it’s run by Warren Buffett.
But here’s the thing: The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event on the planet, period. Worldwide, it attracts almost one billion viewers, and that’s about 900 million more, give or take, than the Super Bowl draws.
Given the 1.8 billion or so eyeballs trained on the game, advertisers (both legit sponsors, and guerrilla marketers) have already released a flood of great, cinematic, long-form videos online.
And media-wise, that represents a startling shift. It started three or four years back with some Super Bowl advertisers aggressively releasing their spots online before the big game to amortize the mega cost of production and the media buy. The trend has only grown since then. Now there’s a whole discourse around spots before the World Cup has even begun. Another difference: People are watching these long-form brand messages based on recommendations from blogs, or their friends on social media. If the intro is prefiltered with “This is the greatest spot ever,” you’re more inclined to take a serious look.
So now I’m telling you to watch this really terrific five-minute Beats spot called “The Game within the Game,” which has already garnered almost 9 million views on You Tube.
I do have a few quibbles. It could easily have been cut down to three minutes -- and for TV, probably will end up even shorter. But the concept, owning "the ritual" of sports, the mind-theater of preparation before a game, is a huge and brilliant idea. And without showing one second of an actual game, the creative team has captured the whole mystique of soccer, the psyche of its stars, and the fan worship involved.
Plus, music is the perfect entry point for global advertisers, since it transcends cultures and language. And Beats, founded in 2008 by music producer Jimmy Iovine and rap artist Dr. Dre (and recently purchased by Apple for $3 billion) is of course all about music. But the reason Apple came a-calling is that Beats is also a company that intuitively understands the relationship between technology and fashion, entertainment, and sports cultures.
Optimized for the bass sounds of hip-hop and rap, the wildly colored Beats headphones sit outside the head, of course. But this video is all about what goes on inside the cabeza (head) before anyone even steps a foot on the field. The headphones allow the athlete to listen to, but also block out, sound.
My favorite part is the beginning and end of the spot, featuring Brazil's big star, Neymar Jr., deep into his pregame ritual, which is talking to his father on the phone. (And through headphones.) They speak in Portuguese, which sounds rich and attracts the ear, and their words are translated on screen in beautiful, evanescent white type. The design is inspired: It floats in different places on screen, and appears and disappears as quickly as speech itself..
“Hi son,” the dad says. “Hey, Cabeza!” Neymar responds.
His father (the cabeza) speaks so poetically, and gives his kid so much motivation and inspiration, that he really is a god-like coach. The dialogue was probably written with the help of a (brilliant) copywriter, but it rings true. One of the father’s final lines is “Run like you’re a crazy man chasing happiness.” It gave me goosebumps, I tell ya.
Then the film becomes a crazy quilt of different sounds and tempos and scenes, all perfectly underscored by the music, which itself is a mix of many different styles: "Jungle" by Jamie N Commons & The X Ambassadors.
Along the way, we get to see a huge line-up of famous international players, doing what they actually do pre-game: praying, washing, taping, writing. Cesc Fabregas of Spain is shown kissing the ring his girlfriend gave him four times. Somebody washes his black socks in the sink with his feet already in them. Luis Suarez of Uruguay kisses his wrist tattoo consisting of his kids’ names (there are lots of tattoos on lots of body parts shown throughout.) There’s also Mexico's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who is shown down on his knees, praying. (Other players shown include Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daniel Sturridge, and Blaise Matuidi.)
There are so many cameos of stars outside the world of soccer that the spot demands several viewings to catch them. I didn’t think they added much. Serena Williams is shown preparing by drying her American flag manicure. (Really, that’s the best they could do with Serena? I guess they felt they should get a woman in there, other than the extremely gratuitous split-second shot of a young woman um, writhing, and then later putting her panties back on. Oh, right, Nicki Minaj looks at a soccer feature in a magazine.)
Stuart Scott from ESPN gets lots of screen time. (He is an inspirational figure, in his cancer fight.) The final shot is actually the only funny moment in the spot. Scott walks off an elevator to go into the studio wearing his carefully pressed shirt and jacket, over a pair of shorts and sneakers.
At one point, the team bus is shown in slow motion entering the stadium, to the howls of obsessed fans, and we get it, we get the pressure. And it ends with Neymar Jr. once more in conversation with his father. Sr. tells his son to “wear God’s helmet, from the sandals to the shoes.” I was a bit put off by all the talk of God, but the religious stuff makes sense in the context of this conversation and this audience.
“The Game Before the Game" was created by R/GA London, and had to have been produced way before the deal between Beats and Apple was announced. But it does include several
lovely iPhone shots.
Because Beats’ products are so nicely designed, pricey (some say overpriced), and brilliantly marketed, they’ve been called “Air Jordans for the ears.” Interestingly, R/GA also helped develop the Nike+ FuelBand system with Apple. The Beats mini-film also happens to feature swooshes aplenty. Eventually, perhaps the three synchronistic global marketing giants -- Apple, Nike, and Beats -- will merge in the service of world domination. And then agree to buy Brazil. Infrastructure problem solved!