By Barry Janoff
December 3, 2013: Earlier this year, top-ranked golfers Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were teamed in a campaign to support Nike Golf.
Now, McIlroy returns to the golf course, not with Woods and not to promote golf, but instead with international soccer star Wayne Rooney of Manchester United to support the launch of Nike's new Ordem soccer ball.
The multi-platform campaign is anchored by a TV spot, "Straight Down The Middle," in which McIlroy and Rooney compete to see who can drive a ball the farthest, with McIlroy swinging at golf balls with his Nike VRS Covert 2.0 driver and Rooney kicking the Ordem soccer ball.
The scenario mirrors that of the McIlroy-Woods spot, "No Cup Is Safe," in which the two challenge each other with increasingly difficult golf shots.
Nike is the official supplier for the Barclay's English Premier League, Serie A and La Liga; as well as ten national soccer teams that will be part of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The Beaverton, Ore.-based sports company said that the new Ordem ball would be used by all Nike-sponsored federations and clubs during international friendly games beginning in early 2014.
The Nike Ordem will be available at Nike.com beginning Dec. 5.
Rival adidas is the official supplier to FIFA and the World Cup.
The Ordem ball is "designed and engineered for a highly sensitive feel and explosive response off the foot," according to Nike. The surface of the Nike Ordem is "debossed with Nike Aerow Trac grooves, a "proprietary innovation . . . engineered to grip and channel the air to produce the truest trajectory and most consistent flight [to] help ensure stability and accuracy in mid-air."
The TV commercial is played out to the Sammy Cahn- Jimmy Van Heusen song, "Straight Down the Middle," and sung by Bing Crosby, which highlights the challenges that golfers face on the course — which also are the same reasons that golfers love the sport.
According to the lyrics, "Whack down the fairway. It went smack down the fairway.Then it started to slice just a smidge off line. It headed for two, then it bounced off nine. My caddie says long as you're still in the state, you're okay. Yes, it went straight down the middle quite a ways."
The spot includes a guest appearance by soccer icon Ronaldo. Support includes Internet and social media destination such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. (See the full spot here.)
According to Nike, Rooney and Rory "have long been fans of each others game, and a true comradeship developed over the course of filming as they exchanged tips on golf and football."
"The thing that strikes me about Wayne as a football player is just how hard he works on the pitch and how involved he wants to be in every single play," McIlroy said in a statement. "He’s obviously an attacking player, but he doesn’t mind getting back and defending. And he’s really turned himself into a talisman for United and for England."