he soccer World Cup begins in South Africa later on this week, and with it will come an avalanche of expensive ads for sporting brands. Leading the charge so far is Nike's three-minute epic, "Write the Future," directed by Amores Perros auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu. This crisply edited, manically energetic glimpse into the possible futures of several World Cup stars —including Brazil's Ronaldinho, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, and England's Wayne Rooney — features hundreds of extras, scads of soccer in-jokes, and blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos from Roger Federer, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kobe Bryant, and Homer Simpson. "Non-soccer fans ... may not catch all the references," says Seth Stevenson at Slate, but the spot's "inventive wit and dazzling cameos" make this possibly "the greatest ad I've ever seen." It's certainly full of energy, says Lewis Lazare in the Chicago Sun-Times. But the "strong emotional impact" of Nike's previous ads has been sacrificed for "surfacey flash," and the overall message is not "especially coherent." Watch Nike's "Write the Future" ad here:
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