The Ultimate Dream Team: TV's Greatest Football Ads

So the wait is almost over. After a Premier League season in which the fairytale story became a reality with Leicester City’s title-winning heroics, could we be about to lose ourselves in another saga at this Summer’s Euro 2016 and see years of hurt come to an end? OK, so England probably won’t win it; in all likelihood, we’ll scrape out of our qualifying group before limping out on penalties after an insipid Quarter Final display, but we can still look forward with fevered anticipation to a feast of football drama! Nothing succeeds in ramping up the excitement more than a great TV advertising campaign, so without further ado, allow us to get those butterflies fluttering with our ultimate dream team of television’s greatest football-themed adverts, from legendary goalkeeper to star forward.


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Goalkeeper

Adidas - Footballitis

Football fans will tell you that Footballitis is a real, sometimes debilitating condition. Believe it. The beautiful game has this knack of propagating feverish symptoms laced with bouts of nausea, involuntary body movements and wild mood swings – it’s an epidemic that turns societies into tribal hunting grounds for keyboard warriors. Adidas’ public awareness campaign from 2002 exposed the sheer pervasiveness of this malady, though unfortunately it simply succeeded in intensifying the symptoms – alas, no amount of ointment will ever cure us.

Right Back


Nike - Good Vs Evil

Next up is a triumph from Nike, and what a cinematic masterpiece it is! Taking the well-trodden yet enduringly appealing narrative arc of Good Vs Evil, this nostalgic return to the days of 1996 and gloriously outdated football kits sees the likes of Paulo Maldini and Eric Cantona engage in the most high pressure of games, tackling a team of demons in what we can only assume is a matter of life or death. In 1996 this TV advert gave yours truly nightmares, today, it still makes an impact.

Centre Half


Carlsberg - Old Lions

If you’re English and an acolyte of the beautiful game, then this TV advertising campaign from Carlsberg is nectar for the eyes and ears. Featuring a raft of the Three Lions' most celebrated footballers from modern history, and managed by the sorely missed Bobby Robson, the ad tells the story of the greatest pub team we will ever see. Rendered in a style that any Sunday League footballer will readily identify with, this mostly unscripted, effortlessly funny ad sees the ‘Old Lions’ taking on a bewildered pub team and putting on a masterclass. The campaign won multiple awards and was lauded as one of the greatest TV commercials of all time, going on to become the UK’s most successful interactive campaign ever.


Centre Half


Nike Joga TV - Never Grow Up

This brilliant ‘Joga Bonito’ TV advertising campaign from Nike focuses on the wonderfully poetic talents of Ronaldinho past and present, with Eric Cantona as host. The beauty of this ad not only resides in the skill and unbridled joy displayed by both a young and adult Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, but the message at its heart: never grow up; follow your dreams with a smile on your face. It undoubtedly inspired a new generation of young footballers to pursue their passion, which when all is said and done, encapsulates the power of TV advertising in its purest form.


Left Back

Ooredoo - Messi Vs Kids

How do you make Lionel Messi look like a complete mug? Easy: develop an app that acts as a remote control for footballs. This humorous TV campaign from 2014 sees Messi commandeered by a group of young kids with a plan. Things start off as expected for Lionel, who wows them with his wizardry. However, it all takes an unforeseen turn when our young protagonists begin defying the laws of physics with outrageous skills involving the interiors of people’s flats and washing lines as props. The penny drops when Messi goes to kick the ball and it doesn’t move – those little tykes have been using a remote control all along. Quite the funny, err, curveball.


Right Wing

John Smith's - 'Ave It

Remember the days when Peter Kay was a national treasure? Yes, he was pretty good as a stand-up comedian, and yes, Phoenix Nights was a pretty good show, but let’s be honest, it’s his star turn in a series of TV advertising campaigns from John Smith's that really endeared him to the population. ‘Ave It from 2003 was perhaps his biggest hit of all, temporarily making it cool to be rubbish at football (for which I will be ever grateful) whilst bringing two simple words firmly into the public vernacular for years to come.


Defensive Midfield

Adidas - All In

A TV advertising campaign that is poignant and elegant in equal measure, Adidas’ ‘All In’ campaign from 2011 examines the intrinsic, unbreakable bond between footballer and fan, exploring the full gamut of emotions experienced by both sides. Following Lionel Messi during a game for Argentina against Spain, the campaign accurately portrays the unity that football can inspire; the fans feeling every kick, foul, high and low along with the world’s best player. Culminating in a moment of undiluted ecstasy as Messi scores the winning goal, this is a campaign that highlights the power of both TV advertising, and the most universally loved of sports.


Attacking Midfield

Nike - Winner Stays

The second instalment from Nike’s ‘Risk Everything’ campaign, 2014’s ‘Winner Stays’ directly appeals to the childhood dreams of playing alongside footballing heroes and being the best. If being a football superstar was the be all and end all of your aspirations as a kid (slowly raises hand), then pretending to be the likes of Dennis Bergkamp or Gianfranco Zola whilst playing three-and-in at the local park would have been a fixture in your day-to-day life. Nike tapped into this, creating a TV commercial that leaves grown men in a state of reminiscence and children’s heads full of stars.


Left Wing

Nike - Airport Football

One of Brazil’s most talented teams for years running around an airport performing all manner of tricks – it’s a recipe for glory. Nike’s TV campaign from 1998 is even better in reality, with the likes of Ronaldo, Romario and Denilson running amok to leave audiences flabbergasted by the skill on show. Complete with the classic Bossa Nova track "Mas que nada" by Sergio Mendes, this TV ad is pure Seleção excellence, though, with airports being a notorious hotbed for bad tempers and frustration, the thought of a bloke bouncing footballs off your head as you sit in the departure lounge waiting for your delayed flight is enough to make the blood boil. Just a minor gripe, mind.


Centre Forward

Carlsberg - Dreams

OK, so Carlsberg’s TV advertising campaign in the build up to the 2002 World Cup sits firmly in the realm of fantasy – Tottenham winning the Premier League title is more believable – yet you cannot help but get whipped up in the magic of witnessing Ireland’s fantastical lifting of the Jules Rimet. It had football fans from all nations dreaming of their own team’s possible success, though the delusional English have never needed much help there. Ultimately however, it’s the Irish's famed unwavering spirit and passion that makes this such an emotive TV advertising campaign. Regardless of where you hail, you were wishing it could happen.


Centre Forward


Nike - The Cage

Arriving at school one day, I was beyond ecstatic to find that a labyrinth of ‘football cages’ had been erected in our playing field. This was my chance to wow classmates with skills inspired by Nike’s 2002 TV advertising campaign, ‘The Cage’, featuring a who’s who of football superstars playing a secret tournament aboard a huge, shadowy ship. I soon realised that my attempts to replicate the likes of Thierry Henry were an embarrassment, but that didn’t detract away from the fact that this was one of the coolest TV advertising campaigns I had seen to date.