Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The secret of great comedy - timing

Those very expensive-looking Nike TV ads for the World Cup might appear to have been some kind of jinx.

The three 'stars' they chose to highlight in the series were Cristiano Ronaldo (at least played quite well, and scored one rather stylish goal [late on, against a demoralised North Korea, but still....], but was leading a weak team who never had much prospect of getting beyond the last 16), Fabio Cannavaro (played quite poorly, and saw his has-been team humiliated by first-round elimination), and...... Wayne Rooney (hardly got a worthwhile kick all tournament, and went home after a drubbing by Germany in the first knockout round).

And in Rooney's skit, they envisaged his defining moment as sprinting the length of the field to put in a saving tackle to thwart a dangerous breakaway by Franck Ribéry in the last minute of the Final. Yeah, right. That was never the likeliest of scenarios, was it? Talk about the bizarro universe! Poor old Franck had a worse tournament than any of them - but because he has so consistently failed to reproduce his Bayern Munich form for his country over the last few years, and because the French coach, Raymond Domenech, is such a complete laughing stock in the footballing world..... well, at least no-one was watching as France finished bottom of their group and revealed themselves to be the worst team taking part. Whereas Looney Rooney's wretched non-performances were amongst the top talking points in the first half of the tournament.

Yes, unfortunate for the sponsors that their three chosen 'poster boys' - and their teams - were all such catastrophic flops in South Africa. I dare say it caused some scheduling problems with the ad campaign: they gamely persisted in running these ads while the featured players were performing so poorly, but..... once their teams had been eliminated, they had to pull them. And then, for a while, there were no Nike ads at all.

Ah, but then, they dug up another one. Perhaps it had always been planned this way. Version No. 4 featured the Brazilian striker Robinho; and it was always a pretty fair bet that Brazil would still be involved in the last week of the competition.

So, it seems Nike's ad agency had scheduled the Robinho slots to begin (at least, here in China) this week. In fact, the first one I saw was last Saturday. That's right - the day after Brazil got knocked out by Holland!

I suspect Nike have wasted quite a lot of money on this campaign. Here in China, at any rate, they seem to have cancelled the Robinho slots, but not replaced them with anything else.

That was one of the beauty's of that 'Cage' series of ads they did a few years back (was that Nike or Adidas or??), with a sinister Zinedine Zidane hosting a clandestine five-a-side tournament in the bowels of a rusting freighter: a range of players were involved in each episode, rather than just one; and they were competing in an unreal environment, for a non-existent 'team', rather than being closely identified with the fortunes of their national team in the current tournament. I trust Nike - and others - will learn the lesson for next time.

[By the way, my World Cup discussion thread has now surpassed 100 comments - although the great majority of them have been my own. I have 'changed horses', renouncing my original favourites Spain more for their odious gamesmanship than their patchy form, and siding instead with the land of my maternal ancestors, Germany. I had hoped that Uruguay could keep Holland out of the final too, but alas they weren't quite up to it. The Dutch, in this tournament, have not played very attractive football, and have become even bigger cheats than the Spaniards. Boo! Boo!]

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