IDEA: Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's second-best soccer player after Lionel Messi, is a beautiful, terrible force. A large part of his talent is his overwhelming speed—a threat dramatized in Wieden + Kennedy's powerful, artful new Nike spot as a violent wind ripping through opponents, referees and anything else in his way. Dark, abstract and hyperbolic, the ad shows, in a long slow-motion pan left to right, the chaos he leaves behind on the field—thanks in part to Nike's Mercurial Vapor soccer shoes.
It's quite a change from last year's Mercurial spot, starring Ronaldo and tennis star Rafael Nadal, which was lighthearted, almost goofy. And that was the point. "We were given the freedom to find a brand-new tone and idea," said Ryan O'Rourke, one of two global creative directors on Nike at W+K. Added copywriter Andrew Miller: "We focused in on studying the effects of speed. … What we loved about this [idea] was how simple and effortless it was. It was a great way to communicate the benefit of the boot in a way we haven't seen before."
COPYWRITING: The scriptwriting involved choosing characters and scenes that would be fun and visually engaging. "We wanted the execution to build," said Miller. "So we started mysteriously with just one defender, barely affected. We see him sitting after a slide tackle, looking confused. Then we ramp up from there." Players, photographers, a fan wig, confetti from the stands, fences, flags, riot police—they all go flying. Finally, we see Ronaldo, a vapor trail in his wake, beating three last defenders and hammering a shot home before turning and surveying the devastation.
"Everything was scripted out to happen in chronological order," said Alberto Ponte, W+K's other global cd on Nike. "If he starts a play in the midfield, what would he encounter on the way, and how do we line the situations up, starting on the simpler ones and ending on the more spectacular ones visually?"
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Director Mark Zibert wanted the ad to look like a diorama, almost like it's in miniature. Thus, the viewer sees a cross-section of earth in the foreground, and the visual field is flat, with a dark, smoky background that makes the action pop. "We wanted to isolate the specific strip of the field where this epic run took place," said art director Naoki Ga. "We cut it out of the pitch and put it on display. We liked thinking of it as some kind of museum exhibit where you could just go and watch this one epic Ronaldo strike over and over."
Zibert filmed at a studio in Madrid on a platform inclined 45 degrees, with the camera tilted, so the stunt men could roll down it and look like they were pulled by Ronaldo's speed.
TALENT: "Ronaldo was super focused," said Ponte. "We took him through his parts of the action, and we started shooting quickly. This one wasn't a complicated one for him, since we just asked him to do what he is amazing at—playing football."
The stuntmen took a beating. "The guy hitting the riot police, he bounced on a trampoline while being blown by a wind machine while holding on to a flag, over and over again," Ponte said. "The guys were so great. That made some really difficult scenes easy to make."
SOUND: The soundtrack is an original piece scored to picture by music house Barking Owl. It "allowed us to build slow and mysterious and then erupt out of nowhere into playful energy at the end," said O'Rourke. The sound effects are distorted to almost seem like they're underwater, which matches the slow motion.
MEDIA: The spot is running on Nike properties online.
Project: Vapor Trail
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Tokyo and Portland, Ore.
Nike Global Creative Directors: Ryan O'Rourke, Alberto Ponte
Copywriter: Andrew Miller
Art Director: Naoki Ga
Producer: Andy Murillo
Executive Producer: Ben Grylewicz
Account Team: Karrelle Dixon, Alyssa Ramsey, Ricardo Hieber
Executive Creative Directors, Portland: Mark Fitzloff, Susan Hoffman
Executive Creative Director, Tokyo: Caleb Jensen
Production Company: Imperial Woodpecker
Director: Mark Zibert
Executive Producer: Charlie Cocuzza
Line Producer: Andrew Travelstead
Editorial Company: Joint
Editor: Kyle Valenta
Post Producer: Shelli Jury
VFX Company: The Mission
VFX Supervisor: Michael Pardee
Flame Artists: Miles Esmiller, Michael Vaglienty, Katrina Salicrup
VFX Producer: Diana Cheng
Music+Sound Company: Barking Owl
Sound Designer: Michael Anastasi
Producer: Kelly Bayett
Mix Company: Barking Owl
Mixer: Brock Babcock