Does Viral Translate?

by Translation Guy on June 11, 2010

Nike translates well. In fact, most of what I’ve learned about making a US message work in different languages, I’ve learned from working for this very tough customer. I’ve been to the campus in Beaverton once, and I was blown away by the purpose and international vision of these “Just do it” global marketing mavens. They live the tagline.

But unfortunately for a language services provider like me, what translates best for Nike doesn’t seem to involve a lot of word-for-word translation these days.  As you know from previous posts, YouTube had been my downfall, and viral videos my vice. Some may call it a waste of time, but I call it market research!

“Write the Future” was on top of the Ad Age 5/27 Viral Video Chart and, as you can see from the graphic above, was viewed by millions around the world. That’s reach. The video broke the record for the biggest audience in the first week of a campaign with 7.8 million views. And once you watch the video, you’ll watch it again―and that, my friends, is called frequency.  Check this out.

World Cup mania is as global as it gets, and not a word in this video required translation. Oh well. Surely there’ll be some warning labels down the road, or something like that. Anyway. Great spot, featuring soccer (football) greats Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Franck Ribéry and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The passions that lead to riots by fanatical fans (Nigeria-North Korea stadium stampede at Tembisa earlier this week, case in point) represent a universal experience that gives global marketers a lever to reach a global audience without the need for localization.

This emergent global mass culture is language-less, or language-simple. As intellectual as a silent Mr. Bean. An arena culture of surging crowds, of blood in the sand and sex on the beach.  Hmm, not so different from most local cultures, I guess. So, to reach this post-literate audience, a post-literate message is required―no words, just moving images moving faster and faster. There is time for words down the pike, closer to the close, when audiences start reaching for their wallets. But literary reason only justifies decisions made in the heart, in pretend high drama that stirs the soul of even the dustiest old bookworm.

Here’s another Nike spot that’s a bit more intellectual, but just as universal, posted in the name of blog love for my man Omar Johnson, even though he had nothing to do with it. This one was done by the Japan team.  700,000 views on YouTube. Not bad.

The only problem here is that you can’t buy these Nike Free Run shoes with sound. They are only good for running.

(BTW, the record broken by “Write the Future,” was set by another Nike ad, the strange “Earl and Tiger” video, just a few months ago. That video had 6.3 million views in the first week and was the subject of countless parodies.)


  1. Tess Whitty says:

    Wow! I had no idea how successful viral marketing on you tube was. Thank’s for enlightening me. Now I will go out and buy some Nike shoes.

  2. datoneer says:

    probably we got some GREAT ammount of subliminal messages on this ad…but who cares??

  3. Mark Demanno says:

    soccer is the best the best sport ever made

  4. Randal L says:

    the is art my freands… really nice tricks!

  5. All this is the most amazing display of  skill I have ever seen. Long live footbol!!!

  6. TheOne says:


  7. Peter H. says:

    those FOOTBALL tricks are amazing

  8. Gail Bell says:

    man argentina shoul play american futball they play freacking dirty they dont know how 2 play fair

  9. Jack Isley says:

    i have a question im not that great at freestyle but im a really good in a game… does that matter at all that im not good at freestyle? please reply

  10. Gettowolf says:

    Ahaha i tried that spin shit during my game…
    ahaha shit DID NOT work.

  11. aQtheR says:

    wat da name of song?

  12. aQtheR says:

    fucking dirtty video Nike..well done:)

  13. dadadumdums says:

    good video , bad music

  14. Sasha Cohens says:

    WOW! Those are Awsome! tricks!

  15. Arthur says:

    cristiano ronaldo is the best of the year

  16. Mr. Xavier says:

    awesome video i can perform half of those tricks.. im pretty good at soccer and street football:::

  17. Elkcoc says:

    i think its pretty good.

  18. Kelly Coos says:

    i started soccer when i was 4 – 5 years old and i can now do mostly all of the tricks here and im 12 now + i play for the team who is 3 years older than me

  19. Olivia Hussy says:

    i stated when i was 8 im ten now ican do lots of those but i just cant freestyle but im awesome on the feild

  20. White hypoe says:

    the video was beast!!!!!!

  21. Cid the kid says:

    maradona sucks for all of u who think hes the best. anyone remember the fist of god???? cheapo

  22. Deb says:

    the best player ever is cristiano ronaldo and you says other player you suck because you deosn’t see the talent of cristiano ronaldo and you doesn’t have talent too

  23. C.Ronaldo got talent but Messi is the best

  24. John says:

    Personally i like ronaldo becuz he is a showboat and its entertaining but messi is right up by him skills wise if not better becuz hes a team player.

  25. Rooney!

  26. Stuart says:

    i loveeee soccerrrrrr

  27. Chuck says:

    so what if its a world sport,its a world sport coz its a cheap sport,all you need is a fucken ball n you dont av to hit any1,its not manly,thats why its gay,people who play it worried more about there looks than the actual game,i watch soccer meself,but not into it like most fags,i laugh sometimes at how they act n dive like lit’o girls when some1 doesnt even contact em,bunch o pussies,soccer is world sports,but not a manly sports,only faggots n weak bastards play it..

    • Ken says:

      What’s really on your mind, Chuck?

  28. Unity says:

    you are talking out yer ass! For on football is most watched sport in the world and second who the f*** cares about fishing. LOL

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