By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

June 18, 2021 | 4 min read

Nike has unveiled a short film starring English forward Marcus Rashford, in which the brand spells out its new vision for the sport’s global future — one in which all people, regardless of gender, skin color, religion or age, belong.

Sports titan Nike has launched “The land of new football,” a film that seeks to capture a new manifesto: creating a world in which all people are included in the game of football. “The sport's future is full of talent, stacked with players who bring incredible skills to the game,” the brand said in a statement. “It’s inclusive, open to all backgrounds in support of young players finding joy in the sport. It’s aware of the power of collective work against systemic obstacles.”

To bring this message to life on screen is Marcus Rashford, the breakout star for Manchester United. Rashford, in 2016 at the age of 18, became the youngest English player to score in his first senior international match. He’s had a fairly long-term relationship with Nike, starring in some of the company’s biggest ads of the last couple years.

But it’s not just his finesse with the ball that has secured him an extended multi-year partnership inked earlier this month (following an alleged tug-of-war between Nike and Puma over the star) — it’s his work off the pitch. Rashford has not only combated hunger and food waste with nonprofit organization FareShare (raising more than $27m for children’s school meals), but has been so prolific in his activism that he’s influenced UK national policy concerning child poverty. “His work to challenge homelessness, ease child hunger and support youth literacy builds to a modern, multi-dimensional glimpse of what football can become: a stage to inspire the next generation through on-field excellence and civic responsibility,” Nike said in a statement. The new deal was reportedly signed on the condition that the sportswear brand offer a “significant financial contribution” to Rashford’s charitable efforts.

The new film celebrates “the birth of a new land,” where “there are no borders... only chalk or paint” and “you can be whoever you want.” In the spot, Rashford is joined by a lineup of Nike’s powerhouse soccer partnerships, including Brazilian forward Richarlison de Andrade, German midfielder Sara Däbritz, Danish forward Pernille Harder, Colombian midfielder Natalia Gaitán and even the UK’s first Muslim woman referee, JJ Robles as well as young YouTube star and soccer player Lorenzo Greer.

Goat above city

Created by Nike’s agency of record, Wieden+Kennedy, the film is part of the brand’s “Play new” campaign, which encourages people to discover and engage in sports in new ways. The campaign debuted last month with an upbeat spot that champions “giving it your all... even though you kind of suck,” and features athletes including British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, paralympic track and field medalist Blake Leeper and American basketball player Sabrina Ionescu, alongside Spanish pop star Rosalía.

“The land of new football,” as well as the “Play new” campaign at large represent a seemingly natural extension of Nike’s work in social activism and inclusivity — a direction cemented most memorably and most controversially with a 2018 Colin Kaepernick campaign in support of NFLers’ decision to kneel during the pledge of allegiance in protest of racism and police violence.

The new campaign also adds to the brand’s ongoing investment in an inclusive and diverse future of soccer. Most recently, Nike teamed with the Liverpool Football Club Foundation in April to establish Game On, a program designed to expand access to local sports opportunities for youths from marginalized groups — particularly those from Black and Asian communities, girls and children of various abilities.

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