CAMPAIGN CRAFT: CRAFT SECRETS - Top footballers add flair to Nike global campaign. The all-star cast flew out to Rome to fight a team of evil robots in an art museum, Lisa Campbell says

The production budget for Nike’s latest global ad campaign ’the mission’ is a secret but it must have been huge.

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

evil robots.

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

Mill, says.

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

this off.’