Secret Tournament

"Secret Tournament" (also known as "Scorpion KO" or "The Cage") was a Nike global advertising campaign coinciding with the 2002 FIFA World Cup.[1] With a marketing budget estimated at US$100 million,[2] the advert featured 24 top contemporary football players and former player Eric Cantona as the tournament "referee". It was directed by film director and Monty Python member Terry Gilliam.[3]

Campaign instalmentsEdit

The campaign started in March 2002 with the "tease" phase of the campaign, featuring only a shot of football boots and a scorpion. The early ads led viewers to a website where they could learn more about the Secret Tournament and play interactive games.[2]

April saw the start of the "Excite" phase, with the teams facing off against each other, then moved into the "Involve" phase (see Impact).[2]


The concept of the advertising campaign was a fictional tournament involving eight teams of three of football's top players in a first-goal-wins elimination. The matches were staged in an enclosed pitch located on a ship with former footballer Eric Cantona acting in the role of referee.[4]

Besides the TV advertising campaign, the marketing strategy involved the execution of local tournaments in several major capital cities of the world, being held in schools, sport venues and stadiums. The concept was the same: teams of three players had to be registered and one-goal matches were played in successive knock-out rounds up to the final matches in cages like the ones in the TV ads.[5]

During these events, interactive CD-ROMs in silver-colored envelopes were handed out to the players, containing the video advertisements that were broadcast on TV. These were very well-valued by the owners, as all this happened in the years when internet was still not worldwide ubiquitous and the only way of watching the advertisements was waiting for them during TV broadcasts. Also, posters with pictures of all the 24 players were handed over, as well as orange bracelets with the campaign scorpion branding.


Triple Espresso The Onetouchables Toros Locos Cerberus Os Tornados Funk Seoul Brothers Tutto Bene Equipo Del Fuego
Thierry Henry Patrick Vieira Freddie Ljungberg Edgar Davids Luís Figo Denílson Fabio Cannavaro Claudio López
Francesco Totti Ruud van Nistelrooy Javier Saviola Lilian Thuram Roberto Carlos Ronaldinho Tomáš Rosický Gaizka Mendieta
Hidetoshi Nakata Paul Scholes Luis Enrique Sylvain Wiltord Ronaldo Seol Ki-hyeon Rio Ferdinand Hernán Crespo


Quarter-finals Semi-finals Final
Triple Espresso 1
The Onetouchables 0
Triple Espresso 1
Cerberus 0
Toros Locos 0
Cerberus 1
Triple Espresso 1
Os Tornados 0
Os Tornados 1
Funk Seoul Brothers 0
Os Tornados 1
Equipo Del Fuego 0
Tutto Bene 0
Equipo Del Fuego 1


There are several different edits of the "Scorpion KO" commercials. There are four separate commercials for each match as well as an overall compilation of the matches and a condensed version of the compilation.[citation needed]


The song in the advertisement was a new remix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation", remixed by Junkie XL (JXL). Following its appearance, the remix was released as the single "A Little Less Conversation" by "Elvis vs JXL". The single cover featured both the logo for Scorpion KO and Nike's Swoosh logo. The song went on to become a Number 1 hit in over 20 countries.[6] In the UK, it was one of two songs to reach number 1 off the success of an advert in the 2000s, followed by Room 5's "Make Luv" the following year. The remix later became the sole single from Presley's multi-million-selling hits album ELV1S.


Following the run of the original advert, it was quickly followed up by a "Rematch" advert, featuring the two teams from the original final.[7] In this script, the two teams played on a set representing the interior hull of the ship, no longer within a cage, and scored goals by hitting the bulkheads within a painted-on rectangle. Furthermore, as there were now only two teams remaining, the target was now to reach 100 goals. The two teams were said to have reached 99–99, meaning that the next goal would win; however, the previous 198 goals and other errant shots meant that the rivets holding the ship together had weakened, so when Luís Figo scored the winning goal for Os Tornados, there was a hull breach, water rushed in and the two teams had to swim for shore.[citation needed]


Following the airing of the commercials, in June 2002 an estimated 1 to 2 million children under 16 years competed in matches following the Scorpion KO rules in several major cities worldwide, including London (in the Millennium Dome), Beijing, Mexico City (in the then existent Toreo de Cuatro Caminos dome), Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Rotterdam, Santiago, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, Berlin and Rome.[2][8]

Nike considered the campaign a success, with Nike president Mark Parker commenting, "This spring's integrated football marketing initiative was the most comprehensive and successful global campaign ever executed by Nike."[9]


  1. ^ Traynor, Mikey (April 29, 2015). "Power Ranking The 8 Teams That Competed In The Amazing Nike 'The Cage' Advert". Retrieved April 14, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Secrets of Successful Ad Campaigns: Lessons from Absolut, Nike and NASCAR". Wharton School. 25 September 2002. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  3. ^ "Marketers freely capitalize on soccer fever". USA Today. 28 May 2002. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  4. ^ "Nike Secret Tournament". Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  5. ^ "The Campaign Evaluation - Whereby this all starts..." Diromero. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Elvis's Legacy —". 2007. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Nike- Secret Tournament Rematch Commercial 60 Seconds". March 2009.
  8. ^ Porter, Hugh; Robinson, Simon (6 February 2002). "Soccer: A Cagey Game". Time World. Retrieved 20 February 2009.
  9. ^ "Nike Promotes Three To Strengthen Brand Management Team". Sporting Goods Business. 7 October 2002. Retrieved 24 February 2009.

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