Viral Review: Nike & Ronaldo ‘Switch’ Things Up
This article originally appeared in Campaign magazine.
Nike: The Switch
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
Any major global sporting event is not complete without a blockbuster Nike campaign – and the Euros just received its entry into the franchise. Over the years, the sporting brand has solidified its status as reigning champs of the event advert, covering almost every possible cinematic genre in the process.
With the help of ‘Birdman’ and ‘The Revenant’ director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, they made a sweeping global epic. They’ve made gritty prison dramas. They’ve even made a Pixar film. What’s next, a light-hearted romantic comedy?
Not quite, but the brand’s latest, ‘The Switch’, does revel in a light, breezy tone perfectly suited for the dog days of summer. Billed as Nike’s longest-ever spot, ‘The Switch’ reunites the brand with director Ringan Ledwidge, who helmed 2014’s ‘Winner Stays On’. Like that spot, ‘The Switch’ is all about wish fulfilment and returns to a cast of young actors.
‘The Switch’ has a set-up straight out of a cheesy 80s film. While playing for Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo has a head-on collision with a 16-year-old England ball-boy named Lee. Following a grand Hollywood tradition, this bump magically causes man and boy to switch bodies. Obviously, hilarity and hijinx ensue.
Of course, there’s a little celebrity-envy involved: who wouldn’t like to see what it’s like to be Ronaldo for a day? As Lee discovers, a swanky house, the newest boots and a ridiculous sports car are just a few of the perks of the Ronaldo name. Meanwhile, the real Cristiano must contend with living with his new life as an English schoolboy, even if his retained footballing skills turn him into a local legend.
Ronaldo has made appearances in several popular campaigns this year, but ‘The Switch’ is an opportunity for the Santo Antonio native to stretch his wings as comedic leading-man. His counterpart, Gerson Correia Adua, is also excellent as ‘Lee’. This is particularly impressive given that he was the understudy and only stepped into the role at the last minute.
It’s in the second half of ‘The Switch’ that takes a tremendous jump in ambition. Lee-as-Ronaldo initially struggles to keep up with his Real Madrid teammates but soon he’s back at the top of his game. Similarly Ronaldo-as-Lee uses his determination, and also his annoyance at being stuck as a 16-year-old to slowly improve his skills. Finally, Ronaldo-as-Lee achieves what he’s been working towards: a spot in the England team.
And who might they be playing? You guessed it, Portugal. Uh oh!
As our body-switched heroes face off in a climactic match, it’s hard to question Nike and agency Wieden + Kennedy’s sense of ambition. Even when they’re taking on the silliest of pop culture trope, the ad feels both realistic and grand. A brief look at the ad’s YouTube comments reveals that most popular sentiment is something along the lines of: ‘I would watch a film of this!’. We would too. This is brand storytelling on another level.
As strange as it is to say that ‘Freaky Friday’ inspired one of best ad campaigns of the year so far, that’s the world we’re living in. As always, we cannot wait to see what Nike cooks up next.