by Hans ten Cate
Sunday, 7 April 2002

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam
Copywriter: Tim Wolfe
Art director: Frank Hahn
Director: Terry Gilliam
Director of Photography: Nicola Pecorini
Set Designer: Stefano Maria Ortolani
Locations: Filmhouse Studios (Rome) and London
Production company: @Radical Media

On Thursday (April 4), Nike officially launched its new World Cup 2002 multimedia campaign. Nike is unveiling its new line of Nike Football (Soccer) apparel with the tagline "A lighter shoe, cooler kits, a faster ball, a Secret Tournament – every touch counts."

The cornerstone of the campaign is a three-minute film directed by Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. The film features 24 acclaimed soccer players gathering in a massive tanker in an unknown harbor to play a secret tournament arranged by French football legend and actor Eric Cantona. The only rule: first goal wins.

As a teaser campaign, Nike had been running ads for two weeks of a scorpion beside the Nike swoosh and posters for each of the three-man teams have been posted globally. Earlier in the year Nike spray-painted the same intimidating scorpion logo around the world. The scorpion, a creature known for its single touch attack, is the graphic icon of the tournament and its players [hence, first goal wins].

The ads started their televised appearance on April 4, first with a 30-second spot (a full 180-second ad ran a week later) and will run until the World Cup in May. The advert was created by Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, and is part of a three-month campaign that includes posters, TV and cinema advertising, print, outdoor, radio, an interactive CD-ROM and theme-park posters.

Nike refuses to divulge the cost of the ads, but industry experts have estimated it has become the first advert to break the £10 million barrier. That takes it beyond Britney Spears' £9 million Pepsi ads, which featured the singer in vignettes taken from the last five decades and which were screened during this year's Superbowl in the United States.

Have a look at what Gilliam was able to do with the ads. Below are some snapshots taken from the 180-second film, courtesy of Nike.

A new Nike Football website,, features all of the ads as well as additional videos, desktop wallpaper, interactive Flash content, as well as a downloadable 3D soccer game that can be played online with other players around the world.

See the complete behind-the-scenes photos exclusively on Phil Stubb's Dreams: The Terry Gilliam Fanzine

Filming the Ads

[from Dreams: The Terry Gilliam Fanzine:] Terry worked with director of photography Nicola Pecorini (who previously worked with Gilliam on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the recently failed The Man Who Killed Don Quixote project) and set designer Stefano Maria Ortolani (Gangs of New York).

[from Ad Age, April 4:] "Terry Gilliam is the consummate filmmaker," said W&K executive producer Donna Lamar. "He approached the project with the 'story' in mind at all times and a lot of verbal sound effects. Having a conversation with him was a lot like an explosion of sound accompanied by squiggles and drawings, with the outcome being a piece of unexpected film. It was never boring."

[from the Scottish Daily Record, April 16:] Although the advert features many of the top players in the world, some of those on show aren't always who they appear to be. Because of the time demands on the two dozen stars involved, some scenes in the two-week filming in London and Rome were completed by look-alikes who stood in for those players who weren't available.

Nike spokesman David Wiles said the adverts were one of the company's most ambitious projects to date and revealed they had put so much into it because they wanted something different before the World Cup gets under way at the end of next month. Wiles said: "We took two weeks filming it and it is one of our biggest projects. It will be our main advert in the lead up to the World Cup.

"Because of the constraints of having to get 24 top footballers in place at the one time, the advert was shot in segments and we never actually had more than five of the players in one place at any time. But because it is a tournament of three-man teams, it was possible to put it together as if it was all happening at once. We used special effects and a blue screen process to piece it all together and then add the players.

"For some of the shots we had to have look-alike actors who could double for some of the guys who would be away playing in the UEFA Champions League or internationals. But every one of the 24 players listed did appear in the advert at one point.

"We think it is a great looking advert and the three-minute version looks absolutely amazing in the cinemas, especially with the great Elvis soundtrack."

Nike's Press Release

[from Nike's press release:] Here's the premise of Secret Tournament: Hidden from the world, 24 elite players hold a secret tournament, with eight teams, and only one rule… "First goal wins!"

Controlling the action is Eric Cantona, who oversees every three- on-three match noir that takes place in a huge container ship docked in an unknown harbor. With Monsieur Cantona at the helm, you can be assured there will be no whining, no judgment calls, and no mercy.

As an icon of danger and intrigue, the scorpion serves as the symbol for stinging play. Seen popping up around the world since mid-March, the sinister and segmented arachnid evokes the speed and venomous strikes that bring victory.

The Teams and Players:

Triple Espresso: Francesco Totti (Roma), Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Hiotoshi Nakata (Parma)
The Untouchables: Patrick Viera (Arsenal), Paul Scholes (Man United), Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Man United)
Cerberus: Sylvain Wiltord (Arsenal), Lillian Thuram (Juventus),Edgar Davids (Juventus)
Toros Locos: Saviola (Barcelona), Luis Enrique (Barcelona), Freddy Ljungberg (Arsenal)
Os Tornados: Luis Figo (Real Madrid), Ronaldo (Inter Milan), Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid)
Funk Seoul Brothers: Denilson (Real Betis), Ki Hyeon Seol (Anderlecht), Ronaldinho (Paris St Germain)
Equipo del Fuego: Hernan Crespo (Lazio), Claudio Lopez (Lazio), Gaizka Mendieta (Lazio)
Tutto Bene: Tomas Rosicky (Borussia Dortmund), Fabio Cannavaro (Parma) and Rio Ferdinand (Leeds United)

"These players are the personification of everything that Nike football stands for," says Stefan Olander, Nike Europe's Brand Communication Director. "They are creative, exciting and innovative when it comes to finding the single touch needed to score a goal and win a game. They also represent the spontaneity, joy and skill of the game, and hopefully all those features come out in Secret Tournament."

Directed by Terry Gilliam, the Secret Tournament commercial comes in three versions – a three minute, 60 seconds and three x 30-second versions. The action takes place to the scintillating backdrop of a re-mixed version of the Elvis Presley song "A Little Less Conversation." It's the first time one of the King's songs has been remixed.

Football fans everywhere can participate in the Secret Tournament at "Step in now or walk out forever," is the challenge each visitor faces. If they are brave enough to enter, they will find a devastating blend of design and interactivity: 3D gaming, downloadable posters and commercials, exclusive commentary from Cantona, the "Mind Cage", and full product information, all in 12 languages – English, German, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), French, Spanish, Chinese, Chinese for Hong Kong, Korean, Japanese.