The production budget for Nike’s latest global ad campaign ’the
mission’ is a secret but it must have been huge.
The work is a frenetic battle against dark forces in an explosive 90
seconds and feels more like the trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster than
a commercial. It certainly must have felt that way to the team who shot
it for 20 cold nights in succession.
But the all-star cast of top international footballers, the acclaimed
director Tarsem, a few stuntmen, helicopters and explosions made it one
of the most exciting commercials to work on according to the Wieden &
Kennedy copywriter Ned McNeilage and the art director Judith
The commercial features an elite squad of footballers including
Juventus’s Edgar Davids, AC Milan’s Oliver Bierhoff and Manchester
United’s Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, codenamed the Geo Force. They are
assembled by Nike to retrieve the Geo Merlin - a prototype football
which is rounder, more responsive and deadly accurate - from an army of
The Nike ’agents’ then pitch their creativity against the robots’ cold
defence. ’The aim was to reinstate our point of view about football,
that it should be attractive, creative and individual as opposed to
systematic and schematic. We wanted to emulate that style,’ Nike’s brand
communications director, Phil McAveety, said.
One of the obvious difficulties was fitting in the shoot around the
players’ team and training commitments. Rome was chosen for its central
It also had the perfect building, Rome’s modern art museum.
’This was to be the HQ of the bad guys so this cold, austere,
neo-classical building was ideal. It’s maze-like in parts, which added
to the excitement of the chase scenes, but it also had giant hallways
which gave the space to play football,’ McNeilage says.
Although stuntmen were used for the more dangerous parts, the team
wanted the footballers to have creative freedom with the ball and they
choreographed their own scenes. The team of extras, which in one scene
totalled 400, worked around them.
’The players had to do all the football shots. This is where we wouldn’t
have cheated - it had to be genuine,’ McAveety says.
Areas where they did have to cheat included those in the dramatic build
up to the finale. The explosion was filmed in London using a detailed
19ft model of the robot HQ, with each floor detonated one by one. The
crew waited around for ten hours to film an explosion lasting
Explosives were also used to make a pillar crumble. The separate shots
were then composited by The Mill, which worked on three-quarters of the
114 shots in the ad. As well as adding special effects, such as lasers
and compositing, the team filmed stuntmen leaping from a 30ft platform
at Shepperton. They also did plenty of tidying up, including removing
pictures from the walls of the art gallery. ’Much of our work helped to
make the storyline more solid,’Angus Kneale, the Flame operator at The
The 22-hour shifts in post-production were worth it, as was the hectic
shoot, McAveety says. ’The whole thing involved a lot of sweat. The Mill
was fantastic, as was Tarsem. I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled