The McCann Time Capsule: Getting Americans Pumped Up for the 1994 World Cup
The recent announcement that the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be played in the U.S., Mexico and Canada raises the perennial question about whether and when soccer will catch fire as a major U.S. spectator sport. When the tournament was last played in the U.S., in 1994, there was some expectation that its moment had arrived, at least as far as advertisers were concerned. And McCann, on behalf of its Coca-Cola client, was part of that enthusiasm,
In an AdAge story a few years ago headlined, “The Day Soccer Came to U.S. Advertising,” the publication noted McCann’s role in trying to kick up support for the sport, enlisting the celebrity presence of Deion Sanders, a rare athlete who had already succeeded in two sports—football and baseball. As AdAge wrote:
“It took a football star to bring soccer to the mainstream. The year was 1994. The United States was hosting the FIFA World Cup, and during a commercial break during the first U.S. match to be played on home soil (against Switzerland), Powerade decided to tap the Super Bowl-winning Deion Sanders to tell Americans that soccer was the next big thing.
“In the spot, created by McCann Erickson, a narrator asks, ‘What's the next thing, Deion?’ The football star then looks at the camera and says, ‘Soccer, anyone?’ After attempting to get the soccer ball, he ends up intercepting it — with his hands —and runs off. The ref gives him a yellow card, but Mr. Sanders gleefully grabs it and autographs the card, saying, ‘Must be a fan.’”
The Powerade brand itself was still relatively young, having only been introduced by Coca-Cola in 1988.
The AdAge story explained further:
“According to Jamal Booker, manager-archives programs at Powerade, the ad was meant to parody Mr. Sanders' dual sports career with baseball and football. ‘At the time, Deion Sanders represented an evolution among professional athletes, someone who was proficient at conquering one new sport after another,’ Mr. Booker said. ‘His popularity as a versatile athlete was nearly unparalleled among Powerade's core target audience. His image and determination mirrored that of active consumers across all sports, including those who regularly played two or three sports year-round.’”
America tied in that game, but then lost in the second round to Brazil, which won the World Cup that year.
But according to AdAge, “the U.S. love for soccer had just begun.”