Beats: The Soul Of The World Cup

Are you ready for some futbol? (Or, as they say in Brazil, futebol?)

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!

Recommend (3)
11 comments about "Beats: The Soul Of The World Cup".
  1. Don Perman from self , June 12, 2014 at 2:47 p.m.
    Wow. Makes me want to ditch my Bose headphones ("No highs, no lows, must be Bose," a sound engineer told me, but I don't fully agree.) This is a fascinating trend: scoring off the frenzy before the frenzy has even started. Too bad I'm not a fan of the game itself.
  2. andrew ault from Advertising , June 12, 2014 at 3:03 p.m.
    900 million more than the Super Bowl. Wow.
  3. Edward Shain from EMS Associates , June 12, 2014 at 3:16 p.m.
    Last paragraph's a killer because the snark's all too true. Too bad the spot, though, isn't in the same league as some of the others (Nike & Addias come to mind). I hate to take issue with Lippert because she writes so damn well, but I thought this spot a disservice to everyone but the egos who dreamed it up. If it's about the game before the game, the game within the game, how about some tension? How about music that doesn't seem like it was there solely to please someone at Beats? "Jungle's" perfectly fine, but the lyrics are at total odds with what's up on the scream. What "Jungle" isn't is a loving dad giving advice to a loving son. I get it. The Beats headphones and the music puring out of them are part of the game's preparation. Be nice if someone knew how to make a jump cut to build tension rather than bleed it. Bad spot. Beautifully shot, but someone doesn't a) understand sports b) understand fandom c) understand soccor d) understand music (really). Other than that, good job, guys. PS: This is why I read Barbara Lippert: --------------> "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.)" Great paragraph, Lipps.
  4. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , June 12, 2014 at 3:24 p.m.
    Thanks, guys. That's what makes horse races. I just like the emotion of it , in a way that didn't come off as hokey. Nike makes use of humor in a much better way, but this year's spot is animated and kind of cold. And Adidas left me cold, too. and I was grateful that none of them used all the usual cliches of the kid running in the slum,and shaving their heads in the form of the flag. (okay, well, Beats had those two. But still!) The kid in the slum was adjusting the home satellite, which was a nice switch.
  5. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , June 12, 2014 at 5:29 p.m.
    One thing to look forward to: no vuvuzuela.
  6. Jim English from FJC , June 12, 2014 at 6:04 p.m.
    Thanks Barbara, I immediately thought of 2010 Nike sport featuring Tiger Woods and his father, Earl. And as you said then, "There's a reverence for fathers in sports culture, especially those who teach their sons to be champions."
  7. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , June 12, 2014 at 6:36 p.m.
    thanks of reminding me, Jim! It is true.
  8. Ruth Thomas from Second helping , June 13, 2014 at 8:25 a.m.
    No matter how many billions are watching the event, I won't be one of them. I have successfully avoided watching all the American professional games, so I'm out...but I am interested in the side stories that really should be front and center...even in this beautiful headset commercial, they cannot avoid aerial shots, showing the slums and dire conditions in Brazil. So Beats seem terrific and they show the players putting them on and drowning out the world around them...the forces that be built stadiums instead of housing..money put into arenas instead of food and healthcare...perhaps being more aware would be better. Brazil and FIFA seem to be wearing headphones and blinders.
  9. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , June 13, 2014 at 9:22 a.m.
    good point, Ruth. the slums (favelas) are great tourist attractions-- here's another side story. An airBandB guy is renting out rooms in these slums at jacked up rates for the Cup. He has been having problems getting the WiFi installed, though!
  10. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 13, 2014 at 10:20 a.m.
    I watched this because of you. Done very professionally as expected. Soccer is the game of poverty including abject poverty where just an old beat up ball in some space is necessary to play the game vs. Beats with no ball. That it doesn't show. They cleaned up the favelas. Rare few make it out out of millions. This film reminds me more of a modern pagan ritual film. After all, religion (all religions) which is based on pain and suffering, has caused and still causing more death and destruction throughout the world than any other reason. What this series has done to people is disgraceful and we should all be ashamed to support it in any way. That said, soccer as sport is good. It brings all tribes of people (People are tribal and belong to many tribes at the same time. You are of the female tribe, MediaPost writer tribe among others.) together all over the world. At what cost ?
  11. Michael Deane from Modern Times Film Company , June 13, 2014 at 10:34 a.m.
    I get the value of music as an marketing entry point but I found this music choice as odd as some of the cameos. Then again I am not Jimmy Iovine. Nice piece Barbara!