The State of Soccer in America Today (or Kobe Bryant and Andrew Luck Trade Stickers)

Written by Phattioli

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Many fans and media types have spent probably too much time examining whether American interest in the World Cup is a sign of soccer’s long-heralded ascendency to a more permanent place in the American zeitgeist[1] or, more simply, an event-specific[2] moment akin to more Americans watching television during an Olympics. Or even some composite of the two.[3]

Regardless of soccer’s place in the US sporting hierarchy, it is true that a lot of people in the US were watching the World Cup. It was then incumbent upon marketers and companies to find a way to get their messages and their products through to all these eyeballs.

Kobe Bryant and Andrew Luck both spent parts of their childhood abroad, and, according to a recent ad campaign[4] by Panini Group[5], various aspects of soccer helped build a foundation that made them stars in their respective sports. It is a nice thought and may even be true and the commercials, for the most part, do an interesting job of tying this idea together.

Like, here, when Luck says, “Before I ran an offense, I ran the field, I felt the pain of the tackle.” In the commercial, at least, some chubby young Luck stand-in did:

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Please don’t cry chubby-Andrew-Luck-child-symbol-of-pain-and-growth. One day you are going to grow up and trade tiny stickers with Kobe Bryant.

For Kobe’s part, a preceding[6] commercial to the final “Showdown” commercial between Kobe and Luck has Kobe stating that “Before my no look pass, I had my no look pass.”

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Ok, I’m sorry, but, Kobe, fuck you. You are an all-time great basketball player, but your no-look pass should not have been one of your highlighted skills. Kobe’s soccer equivalent should have him shooting from the center circle. Oh, wait:

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Kobe does not take any plays off[7] and knows that the building blocks to a successful career are built while no one is looking. That’s the most intense center-circle free kick in an unattended stadium by an athlete playing a sport other than his own while wearing Keds that you will ever see.

The final “Showdown” commercial between Luck and Kobe includes a mix of foundational scenes from their respective single ads and then shows them lined up on each side of the center-circle ready to attack a ball placed between them.

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It should be pointed out that, in a nice nod to the US Men’s National Team, they are wearing USMNT jerseys. But, wouldn’t that mean that they are on the same team in this scenario? Also, why are they running at the ball like this anyway? The XFL had a similar start to their games, wherein a member from each opposing team would run from their end zones at a football that was placed at the 50 yard line. The player that recovered the football would win possession for his team.[8] Maybe that’s what Kobe and Luck are doing here? But there doesn’t appear to be any other members on either of their teams. One-on-one soccer on an entire soccer field sounds fucking exhausting.

I get it, I get it, it’s another symbol. This time it is of want and will and the payoff is:

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Young Kobe and a young Hispanic child reading a picture book about Italia ’90 – the 1990 World Cup? What happened to chubby-Andrew-Luck-child-symbol-of-pain-and-growth? Luck was born in 1989 and would have been nine months old during the 1990 World Cup, but is this commercial really that interested in historical accuracy, or, you know, accuracy at all? Is that Kobe and young Jose Calderon?

But then, finally, we are given the point of this whole campaign:

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I told you, chubby-Andrew-Luck-child-symbol-of-pain-and-growth, I told you. We are all selling something, I guess. Even a basketball and football player playing each other in a violent, Running Man style soccer match that ends with them trading tiny stickers. Imagine the campaign above with Peyton Manning and Prince Fielder playing hockey against each other before exchanging tiny stickers of hockey players.[9]

The whole campaign reminds me of when Fox brought in Michael Strahan prior to a Champions League match to discuss the similarities between football and fùtbol to help dummy Americans better connect with soccer.

I don’t know if soccer has made it in the US or if it ever will. I’m pretty sure that Kobe and Luck trading tiny stickers isn’t helping that cause.





[5] They sell collectibles, like trading cards and stickers.


[7] Except he doesn’t really play defense anymore.

[8] This concept was eventually scrapped because too many players were getting injured. The league was scrapped shortly thereafter.

[9] Now imagine Prince Fielder as a hockey goalie and wonder why all hockey goalies aren’t just replaced with sumo wrestlers wedged into the goal. I know, right?


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