World’s best ads ever #67: ‘Parklife’ cements Nike’s place in the footballing arena
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‘Football, football, football, we get nothing but football morning, noon and night…’
Brian Clough interjects: ‘Shut up’. Cue the music – and the rest is history.
It’s 1997. Hackney Marshes. 220 players. 120 pitches. Parklife. Nike. You know it.
Britpop was in its prime, football was starting to realize it could be cool if it embraced music and culture, and Nike needed a secure footing in the football apparel market ahead of World Cup 1998 in France.
Agency Simons Palmer helped solidify Nike as a football brand, migrating its huge heritage in basketball into another sport, enabling it to eat the breakfast of market leaders Umbro, Adidas and Puma.
The creative team behind the commercial was copywriter Tony Malcolm and art director Guy Moore. Peter Bracegirdle was the account director and handled the brief.
The agency needed to up the ante following ‘Kick It’ – an ad written by Chris Palmer and Mark Denton, and directed by Tony Kaye – which had already scooped a bunch of awards including two D&AD silver pencils.
Simons Palmer was tasked with authentically showing that Nike understood the UK’s love of the beautiful game, as well as integrating the top footballing talent. And it doesn’t get more grassroots than Hackney Marshes. The location, iconic, was scouted in The Sun newspaper, where its grand scale was first hinted at.
Eric Cantona, Robbie Fowler, David Seaman and Ian Wright featured, in secret at first, before the mob learned and set about the stars. This presented a filming issue, especially as Wright had apparently played at the spot during his early years, which didn't help.
The ad, named after Blur’s hit Parklife, was first sparked thanks to creative team hearing it on a jukebox. Malcolm already had an eye on the song and its emergence during the meet-up with Jonathan Glazer at The Coffee House Pub in Soho was "an omen".
The goal was to make the game look different to how it was being promoted by broadcasters, a strategy that remains to this day. Creative director Moore said it’s “probably one of the best ads I’ve ever done, and even the general public agreed with me”.
Director Jonathan Glazer, a renowned figure in the world of music, delivered the work. Among other accolades, the film won three D&AD Yellow Pencils. It placed 15th in Channel 4’s 100 greatest TV ads.