In the background of the ad are Louis Vuitton bags, one monogrammed with the initials “Z.Z.” for Zinedine Zidane. The tagline for the ad reads: “Three great journeys, one historic game.” Antoine Arnault, Vuitton’s media person at the time of the ad’s release, explained: “What true football fan has not dreamt of seeing these three living legends – Pelé, Maradona and Zidane – play each other?”
A series of the Vuitton ads with the famous soccer greats appeared in magazines and also online in the months leading up to the World Cup matches in June 2010, heading into the championship games in South Africa.Time magazine featured the World Cup games on the cover of a special June 2010 edition, which also included the above ad on the magazine’s back cover. Earlier copies of Time had run the same ad in the early front pages of the magazine. Other magazines all over the world also gave the Vuitton ad similar play at about the same time.
Louis Vuitton, for those who may not know, is a venerable fashion brand that began in 1894. Today it is a $2 billion company with 9,000 plus employees worldwide. The Vuitton label is well known for its “LV” monogram found on most of its products, which include luxury trunks and leather goods, shoes, watches, jewelry, accessories, sunglasses, and books. Vuitton is one of the world’s leading international fashion houses — and its ads in recent years have become well known for their celebrity and superstar subjects — Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Gisele Bundchen, Bono, Sean Connery, and Mikhail Gorbachev among them. Other athletes, such as tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, have also appeared in Vuitton ads, but with the soccer stars, Vuitton was reaching for a broader and perhaps, more “everyman” audience.Getting the three soccer legends to appear in the same ad was something of coup, which Vuitton’s Antoine Arnault acknowledged, saying the company was honored to have them participate in its advertising campaign. In addition to the magazine ads, Vuitton also had a dedicated website — louisvuittonjour- neys.com — where a featured conver- sation between the three players was included, in which they discussed their careers, recalled great matches they had played, and exchanged views on the world of soccer. Part of the story line at the website had Pelé and Zidane challenging each other to a match of table foosball. The ad, in any case, was likely a hit with soccer fans. What follows below are three brief profiles of each of the famous soccer legends.
French soccer star Zinedine Zidane was born in 1972 to Algerian parents. He grew up in the modest suburbs of Marseilles after his parents left Algeria. Zidane played his first junior championship soccer at the age 14. Today, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of World Cup soccer and has played for club teams in France, Italy and Spain. France won the World Cup in 1998 with a team full of immigrant players, with Zidane becoming an icon, especially among the poor. But French fans and players generally love him, not only for the 1998 World Cup but also the 2000 European Championship. He retired briefly thereafter, but soon returned to the French national team in 2005. He was captain of the French team in 2006, leading them in the World Cup Final where he won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player. Alongside Brazil’s soccer star, Ronaldo, Zidane is the only other three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner. Zidane, however, had a bit of controversy toward the end of his career in a famous incident in which he head-butted Italy’s Marco Materazzi in chest during the 2006 World Cup Final in Berlin, and was thrown out of the game. Zidane maintained he was goaded by Materazzi, who had made a slur on Zidane’s sister, provoking Zidane’s action, which he later said was to defend “the honor of a Muslim woman.” Zidane, who had retired with that game, performed three days of community service to meet his penalty, while Materazzi later apologized publicly to Zidane for his slur. Although Zidane retired from professional football after the 2006 World Cup, he continued to play for the Real Madrid veterans team.In 2004, Forbes magazine named Zidane the 42nd-highest paid athlete in the world, with earnings of $15.8 million a year. He has had endorsement deals with a number of prominent companies, including: Adidas, Lego, France Telecom, Orange, Audi, Volvic mineral water and Christian Dior. Zidane’s endorsement deals have continued beyond his playing days, remaining a sought-after icon, especially in France, appearing in advertising for Danone, France Telecom, Generali insurance, and Grand Optical eyewear, among others.
In retirement, Zidane has also participated in charity soccer events in various countries around the world. In 2010 he was appointed as an ambassador for Qatar’s attempt to host the 2022 World Cup, a bid they won in December 2010. Zidane was also appointed as a special adviser to Real Madrid’s first team in 2010.
Diego Maradona, born in 1960, rose from the slums of Buenos Aires to become one of Argentina’s most famous and controversial soccer stars. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time. Over the course of his professional career Maradona set world-record contract fees for his soccer-playing abilities. Playing for Argentina he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals. He played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments, including the 1986 tournament, in which he captained Argentina’s team and led them to their victory over West Germany in the final. He also won the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player. In that tournament’s quarterfinal round, he scored two remarkable goals in a 2–1 victory over England, one of which has been described as a “spectacular 60-metre weave through six England players.” In Maradona lore this feat is also known by many as “The Goal of the Century”.Maradona’s stardom in his Argentina homeland has risen at times to the “super-celebrity” level, something beyond mere sports heroism approaching idolatry, with some calling him “God,” the star having a near religious following in some areas. The Houston Chronicle wrote of him in June 2010:
“To understand the gargantuan shadow Maradona casts over his soccer-mad homeland, one has to conjure up the athleticism of Michael Jordan, the power of Babe Ruth — and the human fallibility of Mike Tyson. Lump them together in a single barrel-chested man with shaggy black hair and you have El Diego, idol to the millions who call him D10S, a mashup of his playing number and the Spanish word for God.”Maradona has also had stadiums named for him and he has hosted his own TV talk show. His playing career, however, had it share of controversies. He was suspended for 15 months in 1991 after failing a doping test for cocaine in Italy, and was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the USA for using ephedrine.
After retiring at age 37 in 1997, he increasingly suffered ill health, gained weight, and battled cocaine addiction. A 2005 stomach stapling operation helped control his weight and he overcame his cocaine addiction, becoming a popular TV host in Argentina. Although he had little previous managerial experience, he became head coach of the Argentina national soccer team in November 2008, remaining there through July 2010. In late October 2010, Puma, the athletic shoe and sports gear manufacturer, put on a major celebration for Maradona’s 50th birthday, also then introducing a new line of athletic wares in his name.
PeléFew athletes in any sport have reached the pinnacle of stardom and global recognition as that of Brazil’s Pelé, the singular name this world soccer star came to be known by during his playing years and for decades thereafter. Pelé came to represent in soccer what Muhammad Ali was to boxing: an international icon who transcended his sport and his country. Born in 1940 as Edison “Edson” Arantes do Nascimento, a child of Brazilian Portuguese decent, Pelé grew up in poverty in São Paulo. He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant. Taught to play by his coach, he could not afford a proper football, playing sometimes with a newspaper-stuffed sock tied with string, a grapefruit, or some other improvised “ball.” Today, according to polls taken among football experts, fans, and former players, Pelé is consistently ranked as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. In 1956, Pelé joined Brazil’s Santos Football Club and stayed with the club through his retirement in 1974, helping them to nine championships in 18 years. Pelé also played on four Brazilian World Cup teams, including the country’s three World Cup Champions in 1958, 1962 and 1970. The 1958 final was perhaps his most famous match, when Pelé stunned the world scoring six goals, including two in the championship game to help Brazil win its first World Cup 5-2 over Sweden. He was only 17 years-old at the time. In his native Brazil, Pelé is hailed as a national hero, known for his soccer accomplishments and also for his vocal support of public policies to improve the social conditions of the poor. When he scored his 1,000th goal he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil.
In his career, Pelé scored 760 official goals, 541 in league championships, making him the top scorer of all time. In total during his career, he scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games – 12 in World Cup final tournaments. During his playing years, he was known variously as “The King of Football,” “The King Pelé” or simply, “The King.” Pelé retired in 1974. However, in 1975, he came our of retirement to play in America for the New York Cosmos team of the new North American Soccer League (NASL). Pelé was paid a $1 million per year when he played for the Cosmos, and some attribute his playing there with helping generate interest in America to make the NASL a going concern. However, Pelé retired in 1977 after leading the Cosmos to the NASL championship.Given his world soccer notoriety, Pelé became one the world’s most formidable marketing forces and something of an international brand. Prime Licensing, a company established by Pele’s friend and businessman, Jose Alves de Araujo, was set up to manage Pele’s various market- ing deals. Prime Licensing managed a number of Pelé product endorsements and contracts, including those with Puma AG, Pelestation, QVC, and Fremantle Media, as well as Pelé brands Pelé L’uomo and Pelé Arena coffee houses. In recent years Pelé has earned an estimated $30 million a year from his businesses and endorsements. He has endorsed products from soccer balls, clothing, and equipment, to aPelé soccer video game. Even though he has been retired for more than three decades, the name Pelé is still synonymous with world-class soccer to millions around the world. And so, his appeal in advertising, especially running up to World Cup games in recent years, has made him one of the world’s top advertising personalities. During the 1994 World Cup, he was featured in a Master Card ad with an orchestra performing the song “America.” During the 2002 World Cup he earned millions doing ads for MasterCard, Pfizer, Petrobas, and Nokia. According to one account, leading up to that event, Pelé appeared in 20 million mailings, 100 World Cup promotions, and at least a dozen TV ads. Among other companies and brands he has represented around the world are: Time Warner, Procter & Gamble, Pizza Hut, Pepsi, and others. But Pelé has also given a part of himself to good causes, including ambassadorial work for various bodies. In the early 1990s, he was appointed a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment, and has continued working for good causes since then.
Vuitton’s MessageLouis Vuitton, meanwhile, was generally praised for its “soccer legends” ad, some suggesting that bringing the three “soccer gods” together in one frame was enough by itself. Others saw it as a statement for the cooperative spirit of World Cup games as much as it was one for hyping World Cup competition and singing the praises of three soccer greats. Yet Zidane, Maradona, and Pelé have had their differences about the game – all in the spirit of good competition, of course. But in the Vuitton ads at least, it’s only camaraderie and friendly competition that are projected. Louis Vuitton, of course, is in the business of promoting its “mongrammed luxury lifestyle,” as one observer described the company’s mission. And using the World Cup and three big-name soccer celebrities to help do that – each offering an “everyman” appeal, given their respective roots – was certainly one way to help spread the Vuitton style, or at least the thought of it, to the far corners of the globe. World Cup soccer, in any case, is big business these days. As to which one of the three soccer greats – Zidane, Maradona, or Pelé – is truly the greatest of all time? Well, that debate surely goes on, with national partisans in France, Algeria, Argentina, Brazil all having their favorite, no doubt – as do many throughout the world.
Date Posted: 26 January 2011
Last Update: 28 September 2012
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Doyle, “Vuitton’s Soccer Stars, 2010,”
PopHistoryDig.com, January 26, 2011.
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