I’ll admit to being a bit behind the times since this ad campaign seemed to kick off in October/November of 2005. But I had not seen it until ProPunter linked to it. Nike’s "Don’t Tread On Me" campaign aims to convince Americans that Soccer can be an American game and that we’ve gone from laughing stock to formidable power. The ad, admittedly very jingoistic, still sends a shiver down my spine because it speaks the truth. Soccer is spreading in America and it is spreading quickly. Media consultants often talk about tipping points and many pundits feel that we are fast approaching such a tipping point here in America when it comes to soccer. Are We?

The ad’s main focus is that soccer can be just as much a metropolitan sport as a sport of the suburbs. Youth soccer has flourished in suburbia for decades, but it has also grown more and more in cities across the country. Fans can watch more and more games on TV thanks to satellite/cable and ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV, Telemundo, and others. No longer an oddity, soccer is attracting hard core fans to both MLS and the national team. But we are still a minority and while I tend to cringe at overly nationalistic ads and media like the Nike ad, but in this case, considering how long soccer has been the ‘whipping boy’ of sports, to see it begin to gain acceptance in the USA is exciting indeed.

You can see the ad via YouTube below or by going to nike.com to see it in higher resolution and wide screen.

While ProPunter included the script from the TV ad, some of you may recall that Nike also printed the manifesto in various sports magazines last fall as well. It is a bit more detailed than the ad script:

"So Says This American Game.

It is hereby stated that this game, needing only a ball and your feet, is no longer the whipping boy of the ignorant. The game, from sea to shining sea, has swarmed America’s parks and yards. Every green space and driveway is our shooting gallery. This game is now as integral to our country as hot dogs at a barbecue or turkey on Thanksgiving or fireworks on the Fourth of July. It is booming. It is exploding. Light fuse and get away.

So Says This American Game.

We live in a proud nation of more than 17 million players of this game. We outnumber Holland’s population. We are twice Portugal’s population. By sheer numbers alone, we are going to sweep over most of the globe.

So Says This American Game.

Our men’s national team ranks in the top ten in the world. Less than 20 short years ago, even microscopic island nations drooled rivers at the opportunity to dribble around us; to make us wish we never gained independence from England. They laughed at us. Now, these United States are going to Germany to play on the biggest stage of all. It is our fifth consecutive qualification. Other nations do not merely scout us anymore; they toss and turn and develop digestive problems over us. And our sport is one in which you actually play other countries on your way to the championship.

So Says This American Game.

A fierce, unwavering strength of this land is that it is the great American melting pot. No game has taken greater advantage of this fusion than ours. We assemble a rich roster of Hispanic, European, Asian, and African cultures, kick in a ball, stir it all up, and make the best of all worlds.

So Says This American Game.

Our preeminent stars include everyone from a player who grew up in a Texas trailer home to a striker who learned to shame defenders in the projects of Florida. This sport is no longer exclusive to the children of the suburbs. The minivan is not the official vehicle of our sport.

So Says This American Game.

Yes, there are still those who despise our sport – our own countrymen, in fact. But let them hate. Let them moan all they want from atop their barstools and behind their keyboards and radio booth glass; the First Amendment guarantees they can do just that. But there is nowhere in that hallowed, yellowing document that says we will listen.

So Says This American Game.

And no matter how France looks down on us, or Brazil doubts us, or England mocks us; no matter what the odds, or the situation, or the game, the American people have this uncanny, gloriously stubborn belief that if we want something badly enough, we will achieve it. This is the desire that coursed through the veins of our revolutionaries in 1776 and of our hockey team in 1980. Our country finds a way to win.

So Says This American Game.

This is soccer. A game for the flag-waving, tax-paying, apple-pie-eating, Star-Spangled-Banner-singing, red-blooded American.

So Says This American Game."

OK, so maybe it IS going a bit over the top. But Nike isn’t stupid. They know if you want to get Americans fired up about something, appeal to their nationalism in a way that makes them want to fight for recognition and respect. What better place than the World Cup? At least nobody gets killed.

June should be an interesting time. I hope the media plays up our journey in Germany so that no matter how far we go or don’t go, Americans get a real look at how physical, exciting, tense, and wonderful the game of REAL football can be. I know I’m planning to invite friends who aren’t involved in youth soccer over for some fun times during the World Cup. Get them exposed to it. One. Fan. At. A. Time.

As an aside, I stumbled across an interesting research paper that looks into soccer as an American phenomenon, how it is gaining acceptance, and how it is changing and even becoming ‘Europeanized’. I’ll be posting more about it soon so stay tuned!