Commercialization has been both a blessing and curse for sports, but mainly a blessing. From shoes to drinks to jerseys to shit to hang on your wall, buying stuff to remind of us our endearing obsessions with sports is what American capitalism is all about. Don Draper, you would be proud (since I’m assuming you’re gonna be dead from lung cancer by Season 11 of Mad Men/the early 90s). Watching hours upon hours of ESPN and live sporting events as a kid and especially during the high school years meant immense exposure to sports related commercials; if these things were radioactive, I’d be glowing bluer than that dude from The Watchmen. Therefore, the following videos are going to lean heavy on stuff from the past 15 years, but hey before MJ who cares about sports commercials anyways. Anyways, if you want to kill your working hours, feel free to spend it perusing the following list. To the YouTube-ing!
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Note – These are in no particular order.
SportsCenter, otherwise known as the required viewing for every male in America (and yes, if Obama wanted to put an individual mandate on that, the Tea Party better not stand in his way), has been a treasure trove of commercial content for decades. Here is a snapshot of my personal favorites:
- SportsCenter – Usain Bolt
- SportsCenter – Lance Armstrong
- SportsCenter – David Ortiz
Anything with mascots is a winner
- SportsCenter – Ping Pong
- SportsCenter – “The Perfect Show”
- SportsCenter – Ovechkin
- SportsCenter – “Expansion Draft”
The “Hola!” slays me every time
- SportsCenter – LT
- SportsCenter – “The Closer”
Or course, not all ESPN commercials are SportsCenter related, especially the following NCAA ad that deeply spurned my former Michigan football fan self:
- ESPN – NCAA Make Out
- ESPN – Its Not Crazy, Its Sports
It might be the 4th most popular team sports league in North America (albeit with a status above that of the “Other Manning Brother”), the PR guys over at NHL and Versus have put together the best commercials for their product above and beyond even the almighty NFL. The passion that hockey fans have for their Stanley Cup Playoffs is aptly matched by the goosebumps I get every time I watch these commercials.
- NHL – “Cup Raise”
- NHL – “Look Up”
- NHL – “One Second”
- NHL – “No Words”
- NHL – “Questions Will Be Answered”
Personal Homer Pick ft. Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller
No real category for these since the Nike section is going to take 4 hours to put together, but a good mixed bag nonetheless:
- Dick’s Sporting Goods – “Untouchable”
Great usage of the epic theme music from Rudy
- Foot Locker – “Tear Away”
Reason #809,001 why the OKC Thunder are America’s team…sans the Pac NW
- NFL – “There’s No Place Like Home”
I’m actually disappointed how few good commercials the NFL puts out; this was a consolation
- NBA – LeBron James Train
Don’t ask, but reinforces why if you aren’t watching the things LeBron James is currently doing with a basketball, you don’t like basketball
- Gatorade – Passion
I don’t think this aired in the USA (because, you know, the GOP hates everything east/west of the continental shelves), but great soccer commercial
- McDonald’s – The Showdown “MJ vs. Bird”
The Book of Genesis for modern sports commercials
- NERF – John Elway
Responsible for Nerf profit margins for entire 1990’s, of which I accounted for at least 10%
- XBOX NFL Fever 2003 – Peyton Manning
Ill fated attempt b4 Madden monopoly, but “You’re Defense is Offensive” Probably became a top 5 most used inside joke during sophomore year
- Nike Basketball – Dribbling
I actually have no idea what this commercial was officially titled, except for 11 year old me it was the greatest accomplishment in the events of human history
The coup de grâce and alpha dog of sports commercial productions. I actually haven’t bought a pair of Nike’s for athletic purposes since I was about 13, but apparently somebody (+13,309,080) else does. This is going to be a marathon (and there’s a Top 8 afterwards!), so go take a pee break, refill the water bottle and put on your best YouTube sneakers:
- Nike Football(s) – “Fate” and “Write the Future”
The debate between which football is better rages on and probably isn’t settled by these two commercials, but still fun to watch!
- Nike – “Angry Chicken”, “For Warriors”, and “LeBron James – Pressure”
These next three commercials are brought to you by more of my personal High School memory lane favorites. The free-runner/French dubbed/evil chicken in the first commercial was a combination of awesome athleticism and comedy; I must have seen this commercial a hundred times in pre-movie advertisements and every single time (and I mean every single time) the audience/myself laughed when the chicken appeared on the escalator. High comedy. The “For Warriors” spot was all over the air waves during Junior year and just freaked the hell out of me (especially the fact that Tori Hunter was in it). Finally, a personal homage to The King in his first major commercial. I remember this one mainly because 1) I watched that Cleveland vs. Sacramento game to see the birth of the Chosen One’s career and 2) George Gervin’s “Come On Young Fella” line is my go-to for any sporting event.
- Nike – “Swimming Pool” and “Vince Carter vs. Richard Jefferson”
Because the NBA is the go-to sport for both intentional (see: first commercial post) and unintentional (see: second commercial post) comedy. Now I get the Vince selection, even if his Jersey days were well past his spotlight marketability prowess, but Richard Jefferson? Could that guy even inspire the Confederate Army to wear shoes?
- Nike – MJ in “Frozen Moment” and “Maybe”
Where in the world would this shoe be without the greatest basketball player of all time. While the first ad sums up the effect he had on the world when he was playing, the second personifies MJ’s unwillingness to remind the world why he is the most cutthroat, alpha athlete ever. I mean, he went after LeBron in Keyser Soze + Liam Neeson from Taken style. Just ruthless (and why we respect).
Mik’s Top 8
And in a very particular order…
#8. Nike – “Leave Nothing”
And really just for the usage of the music from Last of the Mohicans
#7. ESPN SportsCenter – “Y2K”
FOLLOW ME, FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM! – Charlie Steiner, 1999
Tie – #5. Gatorade – “Winning Formula” and Nike – “What If?”
Both commercials are based on a “what if?” premise. The first shows some great sports moments not actually coming through in the end, my favorite addition being the Giambi tag out b/c in 20 years that MLB playoff moment will be remembered by approximately 280 people. The second ad highlights some of the turn of the millennium’s most prominent athletes playing sports other than their respective field (a constant debate re: US soccer because there’s no way we wouldn’t dominate the world if we didn’t send our best athletes to football, basketball, etc.). Randy Johnson in the PBA is a killer.
#4. MLB 12 The Show – “Cubs Win”
Although playing on the “what if?” foundation, this one deserves its own slot above the last two because of the realism and semi-gut punch at the end. Red Sox fans are forever going to have ’04, meanwhile everyone on the Northside has been waiting since the Teddy Roosevelt administration for a championship and really have been all but forgotten as a story. In reality, this commercial hopefully doesn’t even come close to replicating the fanfare Chicago will go through if the Cubs win. And more hopefully, I hope there isn’t a commercial for MLB 2098 on PS 50 for the LA Dodgers.
#3. NHL/Versus – “Every Moment”
Picking through the NHL commercials was like being Chris Christie at an all-you-can-eat cheese steak buffet. But even with all those video goodies, this one sums up the effort the best. Holds my breath till the very end.
#2. Nike – “Let Your Game Speak”
If you can somehow sum up all of MJ’s greatest moments, throw in some cool background music, demonstrate why basketball and the NBA are the future “cool kids” sport of America, and sell crappy shoes made by kids in Pakistan all in 61 seconds, you deserve a top 3 spot.
#1. Nike – Take it to the Next Level
Growing up, I was a devout convert to the Jim Rome school of soccer wherein the sport was whack, played only by Mexicans, and had no place in America. My evolution to the other football hit its pinnacle with this commercial (although I’m still confused how Americans can fully embrace a European club when the dynamics between club loyalty and fan in Europe is so intertwined with community, but I digress). The first-person journey of the unnamed soccer phenom character from youth club to Arsenal to World Cup sums up every sports fan kid’s dream to 1) want to be a sports superstar and 2) roll out of the back of a limo with X supermodel b/c we are a sports superstar. With Guy Ritchie as the director, its not even fair that this is the best sports commercial ever. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…