by Hans ten Cate
Tuesday, 18 June 2002

Nike's Secret Tournament campaign started on April 4.

On June 1, Nike began airing two further "Secret Tournament" commercials directed by Terry Gilliam. The ads, a 30 and 60-second spot called "Rematch," are part of Nike's World Cup campaign and have largely been seen in countries where soccer is a popular national sport. The original ads did so well that, on their first day on the Internet, fans crashed Nike's server in Japan.

The original ads feature 24 of the world's best soccer players as they compete three-on-three in a secret tournament... presumably to decide once and for all which players are the best in the world. The tournament is held off the coast of who-knows-where inside a huge tanker ship. Tournament master Eric Cantona, the 35-year-old French soccer legend, referees as eight teams square off inside a cage-covered grass field with only one rule: "first goals wins!" The losers' punishment? They've got to jump ship while Cantona bids them farewell: "Losers, go home. Bye-bye!"

The Rematch features painted goals on the inside hull of the ship. Whoever said the thing about bricks and glass houses should also have said something about soccer balls and sheet metal.

The new ads pick up where the original left off... team Triple Espresso (Totti, Nakata, Henry) had previously clinched the final round using the classic "wait, I'm tying my shoelace" trick, finishing the game quickly, before it had even started. Presumably, this did not sit well with opponents Os Tornados (Figo, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos), so a rematch was in order. In "Rematch," teams Triple Espresso and Os Tornados once more face-off inside the tanker for a three-on-three. Although, this time, there is no cage and "first to one hundred wins!"

The action is frenetic and captures the coolness and raw power of a sport that is perhaps undervalued in some countries. It is football at its best. Director Terry Gilliam shot the original spot on a set in Rome last December. Play took place inside a metal cage and on real grass, which was often replaced during the monthlong shoot. The talented players needed little direction. At times Gilliam simply let them play as cameras rolled. The result: unscripted gems, like a prone Roberto Carlos flipping the ball over his head and into the goal.

The spot's stylishly grimy look is all Gilliam and can be best described as 12 Monkeys meets Real Madrid. "[Terry Gilliam] likes things kind of dirty," says Glenn Cole, a creative director at Nike's ad agency, Wieden and Kennedy, "the stuff you can find in an abandoned lot."

Terry Gilliam directed "Rematch" a month later on January 28 and 29, with Fraser Taggart as Director of Photography. As with the original, the action is accompanied by a hip-hop soundtrack of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation." "Rematch" has a fantastic ending that pretty much ensures Gilliam won't have to direct any further sequels. But to tell you why would be spoiling the surprise. See the ads for yourself!

Behind-the-Scenes images of Terry Gilliam's "Rematch" for Nike Football. Source: Dreams: The Terry Gilliam Fanzine