Nike’s Most Subversive Ad Yet

An evil, gray-haired man hell-bent on killing the beautiful game. Yeah, the villain of Nike’s latest ad should be familiar to all soccer fans.

Nike’s latest World Cup ad is an impressive five-and-a-half minute animation that tackles one of the greatest existential threats to the game we love: The evil, gray-haired man with crazy ideas.

Here’s the storyline: Evil, gray-haired man determines that soccer needs perfecting. Evil, gray-haired man decides that he has the answer. The answer is predictable: corporate soccer controlled from the top by… the evil, gray-haired man.

Evil, gray-haired man proceeds to build his machine.

But a counter-movement emerges. Brazilian Ronaldo (or, as I call him, Ronaldo Regular) kidnaps Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Frank Ribery, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Andres Iniesta, Tim Howard, and David Luiz and gives them an inspirational pep-talk: soccer must be saved! They must risk everything. The threat presented by the evil, gray-haired man is that great.

So what exactly is this evil, gray-haired man trying to do? Why did Ronaldo Regular, one of the greatest goalscorers of all time, resort to kidnapping?

He reveals the true nature of the threat: “There’s no greater danger than playing it safe.” It turns out that the greatest existential threat to the game is boring, predictable soccer. The evil, gray-haired man is intent on taking our sexy, chaotic, enthralling game and turning it into a cautious, soulless, and undoubtedly very lucrative venture—his vision of perfection.

But what if, instead of a fictional character, this ad was about an existential threat to soccer posed by a real, stubborn, gray-haired man with evil ideas? Well, that would be all kinds of subversive.

The people at Nike wouldn’t dare make an ad poking that kind of fun at a real, stubborn, gray-haired man with bizarre ideas that could ruin soccer, would they? Certainly not at the man I’m picturing. It probably wouldn’t be the wisest business decision. But it is fun to think about.