It’s tough to argue against Lionel Messi as the best soccer player in the world. He’s not the biggest, nor the strongest, nor the fastest, but he possesses skills and vision that take his game to a higher level. He also manages to pull off cheeky penalty shots, and with just two teammates to outscore almost every other team in Europe.
This new Gatorade ad, by agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, shows us the magic of Messi through the lens of perhaps soccer’s biggest criticism–the plague of ridiculous diving and flops. It’s been credited with holding back the U.S. men’s national team and the sport’s overall popularity in America. Back in 2006, Dave Eggers called the dive/flop “essentially a combination of acting, lying, begging, and cheating” and it was, “by far” the biggest case against soccer to Americans. So it’s both an interesting and understandable approach for Gatorade to take, by holding up the game’s best player as the antithesis of the despised flopping diver. He also doesn’t have hair like any of these guys.
TBWA/Chiat/Day creative director Mark Peters says Messi’s style of play and attitude is one that Stateside fans like, and the larger lesson is even more important.
“It’s about perseverance, toughness, and fighting through difficult challenges,” says Peters. “You don’t win admiration from flopping. But we’re not simply trying to tell soccer players not to dive. We’re trying to make a bigger metaphor through Messi’s style of play. Messi plays the game in a way like no other. His style almost doesn’t make sense. Why would he stay on his feet when he could easily draw a foul or a penalty from all the challenges? We think it’s because he’s sending us all a bigger message in his play, that the best things come when you fight through your challenges.”