world_cup_soccerIt's FIFA World Cup 2014 time, and boy do we have fútbol fever! We've filled out our brackets, ironed out team jerseys, draped flags around our office chairs (I kid you not), and of course, being the marketers we are, have pored over all the ads being released by brands around the event.

In case you missed it, the World Cup is pretty much the most epic event ever (sorry, Olympics). No other single sporting event unites as many fans and stops the world quite like it does. During the next several weeks, the best of the best will take the field for their countries and battle it out for the ultimate prize on a world stage... and marketers know that.

Have you ever watched a really, really good ad and just said ... wow. Maybe it tugged at your heartstrings (I'm looking at you, P&G "Thank You Mom" ad), made you laugh out loud, gave you a new idea, inspired you, or made you stop and think. We definitely felt all sorts of emotions while watching all the World Cup ads that have been playing over the past few months.

Below are some of the best World Cup 2014 ads we've seen so far. We've picked ads for their inspirational messages, skillful cinematography, laugh-out-loud scripts, and inventiveness. The World Cup is as epic as events can get, so it only makes sense brands pull out all the stops when it comes to advertising.

Take a look at the ads below, and then tell us: Which one is your favorite?

1) Time Zone

 

Advertiser: ESPN

Agency: WDCW

Scenes showing fans from Rio to Kumasi to Valencia to Moscow to Seattle show the differences between cultures but the same excitement everyone is feeling watching the World Cup. It transcends countries and cultures  -- it's universal. ESPN's ad is aimed at increasing its American audience for the World Cup by connecting them to the rest of the world. The message at the end of the ad says it all: "Every 4 years the world has one time zone."

2) GOL!

 

Advertiser: McDonald's

Agency: DDB

Many World Cup ads focus on the greatness of football stars such as Neymar Jr., Messi, and Ronaldo. McDonald's decided to do the opposite: They found a bunch of ordinary folks around the world whose skills are just as extraordinary as the pros and made one heck of a compilation of really cool tricks that leaves you amazed, amused, and applauding -- especially for the quick-footed old man who wins the award for coolest grandpa ever.

3) Nothing Is Impossible for a Chilean (Spanish)

 

Advertiser: Banco de Chile

Agency: Prolam Young & Rubicam

Chile is playing in a "group of death" in the World Cup, meaning that it's got some of the fiercest competition from previous champs and finalists like the Netherlands and Spain. Featuring the Chilean miners at the site of the infamous Campamento Esperanza mines, the ad is a powerful call for Chileans to rise above struggle: If the miners were able to defy all odds and make it out alive after being trapped for days, the team can harness the same spirit and push through. The phrase "Nothing is Impossible for a Chilean" is repeated several times with fervor. Whether Spanish is your native tongue or you rely on rudimentary Spanish to get by in this world, this ad will leave you with some serious goose bumps.

(Tip: If you want to see the translation, turn on captions by clicking the "CC" button.)

4) Adriana Lima Transforms a Man Cave

 

Advertiser: Kia

Agency: David & Goliath

Kia's Adriana Lima ads can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes, they come on as too much and too little value. But agency David & Goliath hits the mark with this fun, cheeky ad that lightly scolds the American male (Kia's target audience) for being in a bubble -- it reminds them to look beyond home to what the world has to offer. That world includes things like fútbol and, you know, foreign cars like Kia. Also, Adriana Lima wins because she's Adriana Lima.

5) House Match

 

Advertiser: Adidas

AgencyTBWA\Chiat\Day

What happens when you put a bunch of greats in the same house and give them a football? Destruction of property and fancy footwork, of course. Adidas draws on the star power of its athletes to grab its international audience's attention with one fell swoop. Bringing together superstars from different countries who play(ed) for different football clubs means more people instantly can relate to it. Chances are most of them are a fan of Beckham, Zidane, Bale, or Lucas Moura, which means it's much more amusing to watch them goof off and play a pick-up game right in one of their homes. Usually Adidas goes for more gritty, intense ads that glorify the blood-and-sweat aspect of the game, but this was a great successful attempt at something lighter.

6) Because Fútbol 

 

Advertiser: Hyundai

Agency: INNOCEAN USA

I burst out laughing watching this ad. Hyundai piggybacks on a popular copy trend popping up informally on social media and sites like Buzzfeed -- the "because something" trend. For example, I say the word "wicked" a lot, because Boston. Hyundai created a series of advertisements that depict events that happen because, you know, fútbol. This particular one is aimed primarily at the Spain camp, and starts with very pregnant couples all piling into the hospital at once. Nurses ask each other, "What happened 9 months ago?" A series of quick flashbacks shows that it was all due to the elation of Spain winning the last world cup, and ... BOOM. And kudos for the social media tie-in at the end with #BecauseFutbol.

7) Everywhere You Want to Be, Featuring Zidane and Cannavaro

 

Advertiser: Visa

Agency: Almap BBDO

Frenchman Zidane is infamous for his head-butt against an Italian player in the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals. I guess enough time has passed where it's totally cool to make light of the situation -- in fact, Zidane has been popping up all over the place in the World Cup advertising game (such as the Adidas ad in #4).

VISA pulls off a brilliant advertising moment by placing Zidane in an Italian restaurant, which, for those who know the context, creates an instant interest: What will happen next? The choice of including former Italian great Cannavaro (great expressions from him), playful accordion music that rises in tempo as the mood escalates, and the revelry that follows when Italy scores (and Zidane bearing the hugs from the Italians with a resigned smile) makes for a good chuckle.

That being said, the messaging at the end, "Everywhere you want to be," is a little convoluted. I don't know if Zidane necessarily wanted to be in that particular restaurant at that time, but I'm reading it as "Visa is accepted everywhere." Anyways, on the advertising front, points for originality.

8) Winner Stays 

 

Advertiser: Nike Football

Agency: W+K

Nike wins when it comes to creating top-notch commercials. They get the biggest stars (this one has the world's best footballers and the Hulk to boot), draw fans in as close as they'll ever get to the action, and use fantastic cinematography to boot. And it works. Every. Single. Time. The concept of this World Cup's campaign is original as always, and plays on every football fan's fantasy of not just playing with greats like Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., and Rooney, but also being them. The progression of outdoor soccer game in a park to center stage at the World Cup escalates audience members' feelings from "this is cool" to "this is epic." Nike does a nice job of dismantling the barrier between "us" and "them", showing off players' personalities up close, and weaving in humor throughout. It's fun, fast, and all about the football. 

Really good ads, like good marketing in general, serve the purpose of connecting audiences to a brand. In this case, these brands all capitalized on the biggest single sporting event in the world -- they know there is a staggering audience for these matches (in the billions). If they can harness the energy and excitement around it and use it as a conduit between the audience and their brand, they're in for a huge win. The ads highlighted here successfully connected their brand to their target audience through football, so to that we say, Gol!

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Originally published Jun 12, 2014 2:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017

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