WRITE THE FAIL: The Curse of the Nike AD

Sports curses (The Sports Illustrated cover and Madden curse) are as infamous as the teams, players and games themselves.

It’s time for a new one to be added to the list, courtesy (inadvertently) via sporting goods company, Nike.

Pre-World Cup 2010 in South Africa, I wrote a piece called, “{ADbitious} Nike AD ‘Write the Future’ – Is it Rubbish?” which discussed the true value, if not celebrity of a celebrity-infested advertisement by Nike called “Write the Future.”

The television commercial was a huge hit with very few people critical about it. Some were dubbing it one of the best advertisements ever made. While others, like myself, criticized it for missing the mark on what makes the Beautiful Game so beautiful to begin with.

Now that the World Cup has come and gone, it is pretty safe to say that Nike’s “Write the Future,” was a big “Write the Fail.”

In its essence, “Write the Future” was an advertisement for Nike Football (Soccer) created for May 2010 as a lead into the World Cup games in South Africa.

Image via Zimbio

A little over three minutes in length, it featured six of the top football players in the world:-

  1. Didier Drogba – Ivory Coast
  2. Fabio Cannavaro – Italy
  3. Wayne Rooney – England
  4. Franck Rib̩ry РFrance
  5. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
  6. Ronaldinho – Brasil

And just for your general knowledge the entire cast included:-

The main focus behind “Write the Future” (as opposed to “Just Do It” – which might have been stronger in this case), was this idea that what happens in the world of football has a ripple effect to the outside world.

World Cup Winners Spain. Image via FIFA.com

“The time has come for players to carve their name in history. One touch, tackle or free kick could crush a nation’s hopes or cause them to build a statue in your honour. Drogba, Rooney and Ronaldo are ready to Write The Future.”

Success on the pitch, could equate a major success off the pitch as well; a ripple effect.

The advertisement was anything but that as the tides turned upside down to Davy Jones’ Locker where only Paul the Octopus seemed to have survived.

Even though the advertisement (which probably costs a few million dollars to make easily — BP Oil Spill, anyone?) featured some of the best players from around the world — almost all of them — and anyone associated with the advertisement has had some sort of ‘early end.’

Roberto Candia/AP - Cristiano Ronaldo, World Cup 2010 South Africa

  • Brasil’s Ronaldinho did not even make the national team. He found out just before the Nike advertisement aired.
  • Franck Ribéry and France … well, that was just bad. There was scandal, Sarkozy, Ribéry never scored a goal, people calling other people’s mums whores, a team on strike … and that’s only what the public knew of.
  • Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro fell into oblivion too, as Italy did not make it out of the Group Stage. Cannavaro neglected to score a goal as well. Interestingly enough, Italy was the 2006 World Cup Champions and Cannavaro led that team as captain again.
  • England’s Wayne Rooney did not score one goal at the World Cup, either. Although, England did go on to the Round of 16, they lost to Germany 4-1. Plus, when England played Algeria, they were booed by their own fans.
  • Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba was injured a few days before the World Cup started when he broke his elbow. He missed most of his country’s opening match and the Ivory Coast did not make it out of the Group Stage.
  • Portugal and  Cristiano Ronaldo, like England, advanced past the Group Stage. Although Cristiano scored a goal for Portugal (ending his two year international drought), his team did not make it past the Round of 16.

Oh, but there is more:-

  • In addition to the original feature, Nike created a spin-off featuring another Brazilian star, Robinho. Brasil was knocked out of the World Cup in the Quarter Finals. That hasn’t happened in years… if ever.
  • Landon Donovan and Tim Howard of the USA appear in the advertisement too. Team USA was knocked out against Ghana in the Round of 16.

And it didn’t stop there, either:-

  • In the advertisement there is a scene where Wayne Rooney is playing table tennis with another ‘star’ — that would be Tennis champion extraordinaire, Roger Federer. He lost in the Wimbledon semi-finals. That never happens either.
  • Kobe Bryant dances Samba in “Write the Future.” And while he went on to win the National Championship in basketball with the LA Lakers, he broke his index finger on his shooting hand shortly after the advertisement went to air and at the time didn’t know if had to have surgery or not.

But alas, there were some survivors.

In fact, the most interesting thing about this advertisement and its supposed curse, is that the two survivors of the advertisement happened to get the least amount of air time and happened to play against each other in the World Cup Final: Spain and The Netherlands.

Cesc FÃ bregas with World Cup trophy. Image via Yahoo

  • When Cristiano Ronaldo’s scene comes up in “Write the Future,” there is a smidgen of moment where the audience sees a player from The Netherlands. Hup Holland Hup and Co., went on to take the silver medals and second-place the World Cup.
  • There is a scene in the advertisement where we see Spain’s Andrés Iniesta (yes, the same one who scored the winning goal in the final match,) Cesc Fàbregas, and Gerard Piqué throw down newspapers in disgust about the success of their opposing teams on the international pitch. Spain survived the advertisement,in fact, to score and to win the World Cup, no less.

It all really makes one wonder.

How did Nike get it so terribly wrong?

Then again, it’s not hard to see how they could have: they created unreasonable and highly-fantasized scenarios.

It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that these scenarios probably had some underlying psychological effects on the players in them creating some sort of steathly placed ego versus national pressure mind game.

For example, right after England lost to Germany, German player (and top youngest player in the World Cup according to FIFA), Thomas Mueller said that for England, “there were too many chiefs and not enough Indians” on their team.

“Write the Future” is all about ‘chiefs,’ there are no ‘Indians’ in it.

England via BBC Sport

It was the battle of the alpha male.

Germany on the other hand, was heavily criticized and watched with eagle eyes during the World Cup because of their decision to use a very young team; a team that  had still to prove themselves, they had to work together to make it happen.

Well, of course they did and beat Uruguay in the Match for Third Place, taking the bronze.

Germany's Young Ozil and Mueller. Image via the Associated Press

However, that is something that the Nike commercial does not do.

“Write the Future” is about the chief, the alpha male. There are six unlikely scenarios of hot a football superstar, mainly the strikers, take the ultimate glory because they scored the winning goals for their countries.

The advertisement does little to showcase team work and the joint effort that goes into beautiful long passes, spur of the moment setups and the coordination by an entire team of 11 players into winning a match.

But is it really Nike’s fault?

Whether you believe in curses or not is up too, and how Nike will recover their branding after this is up to them.

They’ll have to write their own futures — literally.

Then again, Nike could just blame the ADIDAS Jabulani ball (which NASA would give a red card to,) call it a day, saying it’s all poppycock and fiddlesticks.


Sasha Muradali runs the ‘Little Pink Book’ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida with a minor in Dance (’07) and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami (’08). She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima or get a copy of the ‘Little Pink Book’ delivered to your Kindle and don’t forget to check out the Mad Women.

Copyright © 2009-2010 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved.