Ad of the Day: Nike’s 5-Minute Animated World Cup Film Has Humans Everywhere Cheering

Attack of the clones

Last week we wondered if another marketer had managed to out-Nike Nike with a flashy short film around the World Cup. Nike probably didn't care, though, as it was busy changing direction completely—Ronaldo-like—and again looking to leave its rivals in the dust.

With the kickoff of the 2014 World Cup just three days away, Nike Football has unleashed its latest blockbuster in the "Risk Everything" campaign. And the creative direction certainly is a risk for the client and its agency, Wieden + Kennedy.

That's because it doesn't show a single soccer player in the flesh. It's all animation. That's an audacious decision for a company and category that rely so much on star power. But it also frees Nike from its albatross-like "Write the Future" legacy, and gives viewers a fresh, fun, funny and at times beautiful take on the current state of global soccer.

The concept (or just watch for yourself below) is that mad scientists have created clone versions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Andrés Iniesta, Franck Ribery, David Luiz and Tim Howard. The human versions, you see, take too many risks on the field, and their percentage chances for success aren't great (prior evidence notwithstanding, apparently). The clones, meanwhile, precise and machinelike in their decision making, have been engineered to take no risks (the Germans have perfected this, of course, but never mind) and are ready to stomp on their frail human opponents with ruthless mathematical efficiency.

Thus, events are set in motion that lead to the ultimate showdown—as Nike calls it, "The Last Game." This isn't just a football match. It's Deep Blue vs. Kasparov for the future of world football.

Directed by Jon Saunders of Passion Pictures, the spot has a frenetic animation style reminiscent of The Incredibles. This makes some of the game footage feel a bit light on its feet, perhaps—the players seem bird-like at times. Still, every frame is gorgeously rendered. It really is like a mini Pixar film. The storyline, too, is nice and simple—grand yet silly and self-deprecating in classic Nike style.

Speaking of classic Nike—the spot clearly recalls Nike and W+K's legendary "Good vs. Evil" spot from the Euro 1996 tournament, in which a bunch of human all-stars battled a supernatural team of demons. The clones, it seems, are just the post-millennial version of pure villainy. "The Last Game" also obliquely references "Write the Future," with the players seen doing odd jobs after the clones put them out of work—much as they were consigned to similarly shameful obscurity as punishment for lackluster play in "Write the Future." (The new spot also has the by-now-familiar non-soccer-player cameos, though the presence of an animated LeBron James here feels quite superfluous.)

"The Last Game" also ties in to Nike's earlier four-minute spot for this World Cup largely through the soundtrack—"Miss Alissa" by Eagles of Death Metal.

Some will say the cartoon lacks the muscle and flesh-and-blood weight of real soccer footage. (Indeed, sports ads fetishize real action shots to an almost absurd degree.) But Nike is acknowledging here that "real" sports footage in advertising is hyper-stylized anyway—only one step removed from animation. Why not take it that extra step, particularly if you continue to keep the craft at the highest level?

In the end, while not as emotionally stirring as some other World Cup commercials, this one is a refreshing change of pace—a nice, unexpected left turn for the marketer in its endless celebration of the beautiful game.

Now, can we get to Thursday already?

CREDITS

Client: Nike

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Global Creative Directors: Alberto Ponte, Ryan O’Rourke

Digital Director: Dan Viens

Copywriter: Alberto Ponte

Art Director: Ryan O’Rourke

Global Executive Producer: Matt Hunnicutt

Agency Senior Producer: Erika Madison

Production Assistant: Julie Gursha

Head of Production: Ben Grylewicz

Account Team: Alyssa Ramsey, Molly Rugg, Karrelle Dixon

Business Affairs Manager: Karen Crossley

Project Manager: Jordan Schroeder

Executive Creative Directors: Joe Staples, Susan Hoffman

Production

Production Company: Passion

Director: Jon Saunders

Writers: Jon Saunders, James Russell, Kevin Cecil, Steven Hall, Lucy Guy

Story Development Team: Andrew Ruhemann, Pete Candeland, Alex Webster, Brendan Houghton, Ryan Goodwin-Smith

Additional Story Assistance: Daniel Emmerson, Simon Griffin, Lee Hempstock, Rob Sprackling, John Smith

Development Creative Director: Pete Candeland

Executive Producers: Andrew Ruhemann, Alex Webster

Head of Production: Anna Lord

Producer: Ryan Goodwin-Smith

Line Producer: Adriana Piasek-Wanski

Production Coordinators: Anna Cunnington, Kate Goodwin

Production Assistant: Becky Perryman

VO Casting Directors: Claudia Hesse, Hannah Simons

Voice Actors

Scientist: Jonathan Oliver

Neymar: Bruno Garcez

Iniesta: Andres Williams

Zlatan: Adam Shaw

Rooney: Neil Fitzmaurice

David Luiz– Mauricio Brandes

Tim Howard: Tom Clarke Hill (also plays LeBron TVC VO and Football Commentator)

Cristiano Ronaldo: Hugo Nicolau

TV News Anchor: Victoria Lesiw (also plays TV Interviewer)

Fenomeno: Rhasaan Orange

Commentator 1: Jonathan Clays

Commentator 2: Tony Lockwood

Commentator 3: John Roder

Commentator 4: Bill Leslie

Hindi Newscaster VO: Sanghamitra Mandal

Mandarin Newscaster VO: Sun Ye

Spanish Newscaster VO: Alberto de Matteis

Animation Director: Mark Waring

Football Choreography Consultant: Andy Ansah

Head of CG: Jason Nicholas

VFX Supervisor: Neil Riley

CG Supervisor: Cesar Nunes

CG Coordination: Suzanne Forward, Derek Walsh, Amelie Zilliox, Mark Harper, Dave Powell

Additional Coordination: Carine Buncsi

Art Direction: Painting Practice, Cesar Nunes

Character Design: Jon Saunders, Alex Huguet, Gillian Reid, Leeroy Vanilla, Dan Lambert

Production Designer: Dan May (via Painting Practice)

Concept Art: Painting Practice, Daniel Cacouault, John Park, Thomas Scholes

CG Design Development: Jake Slutsky

Storyboards: Brendan Houghton, Yohann Auroux (clean-up)

Previz Lead: Xavier Zahra, Richard Perry

Previz: Mark Brown, Paul Cousins, Emiliano Nanfaro, Stephen Harrison, Daniel Adams

Editing

For Whitehouse Post London/New York:

Paul La Calandra: Editor

Joe Petruccio: Assistant Editor

Lisa Kenrick: Executive Producer

Lauren Hertzberg: EP NY

Nick Crane: Producer

For Passion: Victoria Lesiw

Additional Editing for Passion: Anne Monnehay, Tim King

Layout: Daniel Adams, Remi Cauquil, Anthony Martin

Character Modelling Supervisor: Alex Huguet

Character Modelling: Mattias Bjurstrom, Tom Bryant, Dan Fine, Julia Friedl, Craig Maden, Abner Marin, Angel Navarro, Alex Stratulat

Environments Modelling Supervisor: Ian Brown

Environment Modelling: Zahra Al-Naib, Florence Ciuccoli, Guillaume Fuentes, Jacob Gonzalez, Juan Carlos Gracia, Francois Mancone, Paco Rocha, Florent Rousseau, Vladimir Venkov, Sarah Zaher

Texturing: Ellie Bond, Amanda Bone, Katreena Bowell, Claudia Carvalho, Eva De Prado, David Domingo Jimenez, Lesley Rooney, Grace Stephens

Rigging: Andrew Butler, Chris Dawson, Morgan Evans, Maarten Heinstra, Maickel Pasta, Georg Schneider

Animation Lead: Conor Ryan

Animation

Magali Barbe, Antoine Bourruel, Cath Brooks, Wesley Coman, Catherine Elvidge, Rhiannon Evans, Aldo Gagliardi, Alex Grigg, Annie Habermehl, Rimelle Khayat, Boris Kossmehl, Karin Mattsson, Daniel Meitin, Florian Mounie, Nora OSullivan, Garrick Rawlingson, Alvaro Martin Saez de Parayuelo, David Sigrist, Milian Topsy, Rodrigo Torres, Marie Vorhoeven, Chris Welsby, Steven White, (Darren Walsh: Magpie)

FX

Supervisor: Jamie Franks

FX: Sam Swift-Glasman, Junaid Syed, Dan Warder

Cloth: Ariele Podrieder Lenzi: Senior Cloth TD, Antonios Defteraios, Will Fife, Jayson King, Colin Perret, Michael Sofoluke

Hair: Chema Del Fresno, Kwai Ip (also cloth)

Crowd: Jonny Grew

L&R Lead: Christian Mills, Arnoud Machtou

Lighting & Rendering: Howard Bell, Yohan Cohen, Jacob Gonzalez, Patrick Krafft, Sebastian Mayer, Richard Moss, Camille Perrin, Francois Pons, Paco Rocha

Compositing: Svilen Aynadzhiev, Pavan Balagam, Andre Bittencourt, David Lea, Manuel Perez, Julien Record, Valeria Romano, Johnny Still, Alex Swann

Graphics: Stephane Coedel, Giles Dill

3D End Tag

Original 2D Design by ILOVEDUST

Sam Mason, Jon Saunders: CG Designers

Eve Strickman: Producer at Passion NY

Animation: Wieden+Kennedy Motion

Painting Practice

Production Designer: Dan May

Lead Concept Artist/Matte Painter: Rafael Martin Coronel

3D Matte Artist/Lead: Graeme McDougal

Matte Painters/Concept Artists: Antoine Birot, Nicolas Loudot, Tristan Menard, Carlos Nieto

Junior Matte Painter: Noemie Cauvin

Concept Artists: Justin C Hutchinson-Chatburn, Mike Shorten, Alex Fort, Xavier Ren

3D Artist: Matt Hotchkiss

Co-ordinator: Dora Sarkozi

Graphic Design: Gemma Kingsley, Erica McEwan

Junior Artist: Rodolphe Parfait

Football Reference Shoot

Andy Ansah: Choreographer

Tyson White: Choreographer

Tyler Blake: Project Manager

Gerri McCarthy: Live Producer for Passion

Marek Wesolowski: DOP/Steadicam Op

Ronaldas Buozis: SOP/Sony F55

Ralph Messer: Focus Puller

Josh Feder: Runner/GoPro

Jonah Sugden: Runner/5D Op

Nuria Perez: DIT

Football Performers (c/o Sports on Screen): Mat Mitchel-King, Louie Theophanous, Anthony Cock, Chris Piper, Joseph Holland, Aaron Clarke, Isa Hussain, Joel Ledgister

Mocap Shoot: Lottie Hope: Passion Producer

Phil Stilgoe: Mocap Producer

Stuart Haskayne: Mocap Supervisor

Joe Ells: Mocap Post Supervisor

Iain Silvester: Mocap Production Coordinator

Matt Parker: Sr Mocap Technician

Mocap Technicians: Ross Richards, David Bushen

Mimi Dulake: Mocap Production Asst

Goran Dimitrijević: Mocap Tracking Manager

Igor Kovačević: Mocap Sr Tracker

Mocap Trackers: Jelena Mitrović, Zoran Muncan, Miloš Knežević, Nenad Milosavljević

Sound Design: 750mph

Sam Ashwell: Sound Designer & Mix Engineer

Sam Robinson: Audio Producer

Phil Bolland: Additional Engineering

TX: Mike Bovill, Gerda Aleksandraviciute, Jeff Smith: TX

Passion Pipeline TD: Sajjad Amjad, Julian Hodgson

IT Support / Engineering Team

Daffer Al-Faiadh: IT Manager

Mani Singh: IT Engineer

Ilkan Ozturk: IT Engineer

Alex Pittas: IT Assistant

Finance & Accounting

Dennis Hobbs, Head of Finance

Kendrah Matthew, Grant Harris, Ben Davies

Runners: Kingsley Bailey, Fern Buckenham, Edward Bulmer, Linus Carlson, Fionn Guilfoyle, Raymond Hemson, Rishi Hindocha, Isabella Miroux, Shane Noonan, Alex Pittas, Phoebe Platman, Sophia Simenski, Paige Sullivan, Zachary Towlen, Phoebe Young

Editorial / :30 Trailers And Athlete Teasers

Editorial Company: Joint Editorial

Editor: Peter Wiedensmith

Post Producer: Ryan Shanholtzer / Alex Thiesen

Music Editor: Nicholas Davis

Lead Assistant Editor: Eric Hill

Assistant Editor: Alyssa Coates

Post Executive Producer: Patty Brebner

Online

Finishing: Glassworks

Colourist: Duncan Russell

Smoke Artist: Aleks Ugarow

Executive Producer: Misha Stanford-Harris

Titles/Graphics: WK Motion / WK Studio

Music

Music Company: Walker

Composer: Judson Crane

Executive Producer: Sara Matarazzo

Music Coordinator: Abbey Hickman

Licensed Track: Miss Alissa, Eagles of Death Metal

Sound

Sound + Mix Company: 750mph

Sound Designer / Mixer: Sam Ashwell

Executive Producer: Sam Robinson