Best football commercials (90s – early 2000s)

From The Cage to a day out with Jose, we reminisce the golden age of football ads.

One of the biggest reasons I’ve come to love football boots is because of the awesome commercials by boot brands that spanned the last 20-30 years. They inspired the imagination and made their already good boots feel all that much greater.

Once in a while, I do look back at some of these ads and think about how amazing it was to experience them for the first time and be treated to the majesty of these videos. In recent years, big brands like Nike and adidas have seemed to pull back from doing these blockbuster video ads which has made me pine for them even more.

While we wait the next big ad, we look back at some of our favourites from yesteryear in our series on the best football commercials – starting with the 90s and early 2000s.

Nike – The Cage (2002)

We begin with one of the most iconic ad campaigns by Nike. The top Nike footballers all compete in a secret “cage” tournament, hosted by Eric Cantona in a suit. And what a line-up it was with Totti, Henry, Nakata, Davids, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos – just to name a few.

The music, the setting, the cool team posters and that silver Nike Neo Merlin. It all contributed to the hype. But that was all garnish to the main dish – the slick skills we saw on screen. Ronaldo’s flicks and Roberto Carlos’ scorpion kick became something we all tried to replicate on the pitch over the weekends with the Mercurial Vapor and the T90 boots that were subtly featured in the series.

This campaign was so popular that even football pitches started calling themselves “The Cage” in an attempt to channel the popularity of this series of videos. The Cage definitely left its mark in more ways than one.

Nike – Good vs Evil (1996)

This could probably be one of the first blockbuster videos by Nike and boy did they hit it off with a bang. Cantona, Maldini, Wright, Kluivert, Ronaldo and more took on demons in Rome to battle for the soul of the beautiful game.

They get roughed up at the start but fight back through a lovely interception by Maldini and soon, the ball lands at the feet of Cantona. He flicks up his collar and coolly says “Au Revoir” before dispatching the shot through the goalkeeper. And just like that, it spawned many a schoolboy to attempt the same move on the playground. Everyone wanted to be Cantona.

adidas – Footbalitis (2002)

adidas’ ad in time for the World Cup 2002 in Japan/Korea was a really cute one. The Predator Mania was at the heart of this alongside stars like Beckham, Zidane and Barthez as “doctors” study the strange case of footbalitis. The players can’t stop juggling or kicking a ball, even in their sleep. In the age where most football boot commercials feature more action, this switch to a more humorous tone was very welcome and refreshing.

The Japanese version with a certain Nakamura was also very well done though not as well publicized at that time. Give it a watch below.

Nike – Brazil Airport (1998)

The association between Brazil, Nike and beautiful football started with this truly iconic video of Denilson, Ronaldo and gang participating in some freestyle football all across the airport to the tune of Mas Que Nada. From the waiting areas to the runway and the baggage drop, no areas were spared as samba football captured the imagination. This was when the world started to fall in love with Grazil.

The final moment of the video was also rather prophetic as Ronaldo dazzled fans only to fail at the last hurdle at the World Cup. Despite heartbreak for Brazil, this video reminded us of a more hopeful time.

adidas – Road to Lisbon (2004)

Euro 2004 in Portugal saw adidas crank up their marketing efforts with the lovely “Road to Lisbon” campaign featuring adidas stars riding their scooters up to Portugal for the tournament. The action begins when the likes of Vieira, Ballack and Kahn have a small game in the park before moving to a dusty backyard pitch in Lisbon for an all-out football skirmish – the highlight being a delicious cross-field pass from Zidane for ex-Juve teammate, Del Piero, on a scooter who then decides to produce a somersault to strike the ball.

I just loved the adidas kits for this Euro campaign (especially the French one) and the boots were stellar. We saw the Predator Pulse (one of the best looking Preds in my opinion) and the grey/blue F50s in this video. I got a pair of those very F50s after watching Ashley Cole in his now historic battle against Ronaldo. And lastly, a big shout out to the silver adidas Roteiro ball that appeared throughout the video. It remains one of the best looking tournament balls in memory.

Did we miss any football commercials from the 90s – early 2000s period? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for the next iteration as we explore the golden age of football videos in the new millennium.

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