Tango Squad FC: the end of an era
At its heart Tango Squad FC was all about bringing gen-z, street footballers from small-sided adidas leagues around the world together, to discover if individual, streetballer flair can gel into an 11-a-side-team and defeat established teams. All this, while experiencing life in the shoes of professional footballers and learning from some of the brightest adidas stars and clubs along the way.
Over the course of this two-year journey the players, the production team, crew, director and I have travelled the world and grown together beyond the pitch. We’ve seen incredible things happen through a shared love of the beautiful game and demonstrated that adidas has the power to change lives through sport.
Here are some of my personal highlights…
S01 E02 | The First Test feat. Xabi Alonso
We secured Xabi Alonso as Tango Squad FC’s manager and worked closely with him in Madrid to establish the team. As a Liverpool fan, it was amazing to see Xabi investing his time and energy in this motley crew of young players from around the world, an experience none of them (myself included) will ever forget.
S01 E08 | Getting Real feat. Gareth Bale & Marcelo
Later in season one, we returned to Madrid ahead of the Tango Squad TC season finale against F2FC at Old Trafford, where the squad got to train and learn from Gareth Bale and Marcelo.
Having shot with a lot of footballers in the past, this was a reminder that having a team of authentic and passionate footballers unlocks the best out of world-class talent and lets you tell a relatable story through an authentic lens. Something that can be difficult with presenter-led content, green screen set-ups or hero film shoots.
Case in point was when Gareth Bale took it upon himself to give Jack Downer (our resident panna king @street_panna) a nutmeg, sending the squad into meltdown and giving us more time and engaging content from Bale than I’ve ever seen from a player of his level.
S02 E01 | Tango World Final feat. Kaká, Podolski, F2Freestylers
With season one having gone down so well at adidas, and fans on social asking for more, we opened season two in a big way at the World Cup in Russia. After a series of epic trials and a match at Gorky Park in Moscow, a global MVP called Komel was crowned by Kaka and invited to join Tango Squad FC.
Komel had an amazing story that encapsulated what Tango Squad FC was all about. His life had been changed through sport. Having fled Afghanistan with his family, he began playing in adidas small-sided leagues where he had made friends for life and became a legend in Vienna.
It was incredible to see the joy, passion and emotion on his face when he was chosen by Kaka and signed his Tango Squad FC contract with the team around him. He even got to deliver the World Cup Trophy to the final then revealed to us that this was the first ever football match!
S02 E02 | The New Signing feat. Kaká and SK Rapid Wien
We had to tell Komels story and capture his passion for the game on his own turf so we headed to Vienna. This episode speaks for itself and embodies the whole spirit of the project, a huge highlight for me to tell an amazing story of resilience, passion and skill that could be a documentary within itself.
S02 E07 | Paris Rematch feat. Mendy, Pogba & Dybala
Later in season two, we headed back to Paris to highlight the story of Bilal. Another new player who had won MVP in Paris. We told Bilal’s story alongside Jordan O’Briens, the first female player on the squad who had won MVP in Los Angeles. For me working with Jordan was amazing. She is all about playing alongside the guys and avoiding segregation until pro-level. She believes this is how women’s football can thrive and has always played alongside men.
It was great to see adidas backing this in their mixed small-sided leagues and Jordan holding her own throughout the series, while teaching the guys a thing or two on the pitch.
Another highlight from this episode was working with Pogba, Dybala and Mendy. It was great to see world-class players, like Pogba and Dybala, growing real friendships with the Tango players when they meet again.
This is one of the most powerful things brands like adidas can do. It benefits young players through the feeling of mentorship and acknowledgement by their heroes and the pro players genuinely enjoy having a laugh with young talent; sharing some skills and flare which, in turn, unlocks the best out of them performance wise for the camera.
S02 E11 | Tango Squad FC vs Hashtag Utd | #TangoCup at Old Trafford
The final ever episode of Tango Squad FC, which was released this week, saw the team take on the biggest YouTube football team and social media powerhouse, Hashtag United at Old Trafford. Following a defeat in season one at the hands of F2FC, a string of losses in season two, and Hashtag having just won their semi-professional league, it wasn’t looking good for Tango Squad FC. They were the underdogs.
Given that the team only comes together for tightly scheduled shoots, prolonged training sessions where the team can gel is tricky. We worked closely Joe Oxley, the team’s coach, to do everything we could to get them to a point where they had a chance.
With over 30 shoots on the project under our belts and managing the logistics of a match at Old Trafford last season, we knew how to produce, shoot and deliver this season finale.
This was when we noticed the focus within the internal team shift. For the first time, it felt like we were a football club, one team with one mission. Our attitude had shifted.
The director and I were the directors of football. The producer was the chairperson and our clients were the board. We had one chance left.
We knew it, the players knew it, we were in it together and that’s when the positivity started to grow.
I go to a lot of talks where brands and agencies speak about value-based advertising. But how often is this really done authentically?
We’ve had the pleasure to work with adidas to create, curate and craft stories that have changed the lives of 25+ football-mad guys and girls from around the world for the past two years. Opportunities and life experiences that will continue to have a massive effect on how these people will develop in the years to come.
This is the power that lies within sport marketing and we’re looking forward to continuing to unlock it in the future.