Fresh eyes

Our 11 favourite World Cup campaigns

Stock image Foosball table close up

Written by William Thomas,
Digital & Content Executive at Freshfield

No, we’re not talking about when England reached the semis at Italia ‘90 or won it in ‘66. We’ve been discussing our other passion in life – great PR and marketing campaigns.

Any major sporting event brings with it the inevitable circus of big brand ad campaigns, mixed with cheeky product launches and shameless piggy-backing promotions. Add the world’s best football players and a global audience, and you have companies falling over one another to produce the best World Cup marketing campaigns.

So which campaigns are as captivating as a penalty shoot-out? Or does someone need to grab the water bucket and magic sponge? In no particular order, here’s our starting 11.

Dream Big with Lidl

Ok, so we might be a little bit biased with this one but kicking us off is Lidl’s Dream Big campaign. We think this campaign, featuring members of the England squad, is quite charming and warm as it manages to stay on the right side of twee.
The kids add appropriate humour and the acting from the lads isn’t too awkward. It’s nice to see they aren’t taking themselves too seriously as it echoes the relaxed expectations on this year’s squad. The most memorable of the big supermarket campaigns in our opinion.


Comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan are wonderfully paired in this joint campaign by Tesco’s inhouse clothing brand F&F, and charity CALM, (Campaign Against Living Miserable). On average 84 men take their own lives in the UK every week. #MARKYOURMAN is an inventive campaign with familiar faces promoting male mental health. Well done Tesco.

ITV – ‘Forget’ – World Cup 2018 coverage preview

You won’t forget this in a hurry. Timely, witty musings paired with the sharp editing of famous images and psychedelic interjections. If we’ve seen an influx of spoken word in advertising, but this is a throwback to the lively rock’n’roll approach of MTV.It even includes a lovely tribute to Clovis Acosta Fernandes, the renowned Brazilian fan armed with his moustache, hat and replica of the World Cup who died in 2015. A strong campaign from ITV which cleverly taps into the emotion of football and our collective nostalgia.

BBC Sport – World Cup coverage trailer

It might be another broadcaster’s preview campaign, but the creation of a tapestry, showing past world cup moments through the years, is a novel idea. Maradona starts proceedings before other World Cup icons like Gazza, Zidane, Ronaldo, Pele and others make an appearance. Ironically, it’s the opposite of ITV’s forget campaign and cleverly combines the Russian Avant-garde movement with socialist realism artwork, through digital media. If we were part of the team that created this, we’d be very proud of ourselves.

Nike Football – ‘Vai na Brasileiragem’

It wouldn’t be a World Cup without Brazil. This campaign from Nike focuses on the current crop of players, surprisingly all given equal billing around Neymar. Starting with a warm practical joke in a changing room, the viewer is transported through a jaunty montage of skills and tricks.Even the original Ronaldo makes an appearance, in a clever reference to the classic Brazil team Airport advert from 1998. The star of the show though is the little boy and his fiery team talk. Interestingly, there’s no cliché bossa nova or samba, just a thumping dance track as the jersey is proven to have history.

PaddyPower – From Russia with Equal Love

Russia’s reputation for homophobia is the target of perennial micky takers Paddy Power in this campaign, which sees the bookie working with Attitude Magazine Foundation to pledge money for LGBT+ inclusion projects.It’s easy to be cynical and dismiss this as exploiting a very real issue for monetary gain, or even view it as interfering with a country’s politics. Paddy Power are after all a gambling company with a long history of marketing stunts, provocation and the occasional offensive mishap. Whatever your view, it’s the message that makes #RainbowRussians an important campaign.

Adidas – Create the Answer

The number of footballers, pop culture icons, and celebrities packed into this minute-and-a-half ad is crazy. We attempted to count but had to give up. Give it a go, and see how you get on, it’s harder than it appears. Adidas once again prove they are great at advertising, even if they might be guilty of relying on their little black book of well-known faces.

What If England Won the World Cup? – BBC Sport’s England vs Tunisia preview

We don’t like to tempt fate, but it’s always nice to dream isn’t it? In this intro before England’s opening game at Russia 2018, we see the immediate aftermath of England having won the World Cup. The Queen ‘dabs’ on the balcony, you can have a ‘Cahill’ haircut, Alexander and Arnold are the most popular boy’s names and Jamie Vardy is having a party like it’s 2016 again!This is an amusing ploy by the BBC with smart editing, wonderful cameos and nods to popular culture. This campaign worked well across the Beeb’s various platforms and is was a very welcome, tongue-in-cheek way to kick off coverage of England’s first game.

The FA: England’s World Cup Squad Revealed

Not strictly a campaign, but this film firmly drags squad announcements into the 21st century. Streamed at the same time as the press conference, the video has been met with widespread acclaim and excitement.Gone are the days of lists being read out by suits in mundane, monotonous conference rooms. This announcement was fresh, multicultural, young and exciting, (which for the FA is amazing!). Expect this modern, high-octane, montage approach to have a long-lasting influence over the next few years.

Gatorade – Messi vs Suarez, Everything Changes

Messi and Suarez are two of the most bankable stars at the top of their sport and they come together for this brilliant ad by Gatorade. They are club team mates, friends and both have a good shot at getting to the latter stages of the tournament in Russia.

It’s a very humorous and original take on international rivalry/domestic unity. Unfortunately, not many people here in the UK will see this glorious advert as it’s for the American market. Their gain is our loss, and the United States didn’t even qualify for the tournament. That tells you everything about the value of the World Cup.

McDonalds – McDelivery

McDonalds have a long association with football sponsorship, FIFA and the World Cup brand in general. It makes sense they’d possibly be feeling the squeeze from services like Deliveroo and need to introduce a new service, inventively called McDelivery. The World Cup presents the perfect opportunity to launch such a product.

Our honourable mention: Uber Eats and Andrea Pirlo

Representing the super sub is this masterpiece from Uber Eats. It’s exactly what it says on the tin and is a funny take on World Cup absenteeism. The midfield maestro proves to be a class act, and similar to Cantona, isn’t afraid to not take himself too seriously after such an illustrious and profound career.

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