Louis Vuitton’s latest luggage campaign has been a huge success. The campaign portraits football icons Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, captured by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, as they play an impromptu game of chess on a Louis Vuitton case, captioned “Victory is a state of mind.”
So far, the campaign has earned 70 million likes. So, what do we think?
“First of all it’s great timing with the World Cup,” says Martin Irish, Creative Director at Hunterlodge. “And important because it brings together two of the greatest football players in an ad for the first time. Both are already in the headlines.
“Cristiano Ronaldo just left Manchester United, so the ad now ties in beautifully with Ronaldo contemplating his next move, while Lionel Messi will be wondering if it will be ‘check mate’ for Argentina in two more moves after the Saudi Arabian 2-1 wonder result.
“So, the ad has legs to outlast the tournament.”
The third pillar of the ad is Annie Leibovitz, the famed American photographer best known for her engaging portraits, most notably of celebrities in intimate settings. She was the first woman to have a feature exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery. The Library of Congress declared her a Living Legend.
“If she were a footballer, she’d be in the same team as the lads,” Martin says. “When she shoots it’s an event. She’s photographed some of the world’s most prominent people, from the Queen to Mick Jagger. Her iconic photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono featured in Rolling Stone Magazine was the last portrait of the couple together before he was murdered. Louis Vuitton has put together a dream team.”
Better than a hat trick?
Louis Vuitton indeed targets a relatively small, affluent target audience. For most, the luggage featured in the ad is well beyond the average person’s finances. And yet the French company continues to go from strength to strength. In 2021, Forbes estimated that Louis Vuitton was worth $39.3 billion. Impressive for a business founded in 1854.
“Part of this story is the audience. Lionel’s copy with the post said: ‘Victory is a state of mind.’ It’s appropriate even if the line was probably written for him. His unrelenting desire to win has served him well in front of millions of fans. It will appeal to their audience of followers. Both men have a combined following of more than 870 million on Instagram alone. If some young followers have never heard of Louis Vuitton, they certainly have now.
Cristiano, on the other hand, proclaims, ‘Victory travels in Louis Vuitton.’ The line works on two levels, but what most don’t know is that the World Cup travels in a Louis Vuitton case.
The easter eggs don’t stop there. The chess position shown on the Louis Vuitton case comes from a game between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, the chess equivalents of Ronaldo and Messi, both young talents, from an important match in Norway Chess 2017. GM Magnus Carlsen commented: “Second greatest rivalry of our time mimicking the greatest.”
Leaving a legacy
The ad may have lasting appeal. Both Messi and Ronaldo are playing their fifth world cup, most probably their last, and neither man has won it. According to messivsronaldo.com, Messi has played 165 Internationals and scored 133 goals, while Ronaldo has played 199 games, scoring 150 goals. The head-to-head in the ad is a perfect marriage.
“Fashion houses certainly appear to be wooing more and more footballers,” Martin says. “Marcus Rashford now fronts Burberry. Neymar has Superdry. Greizman has Mango. And Mbappe is Dior’s striker. M&S have a clothing range for the England team. Napoli has Giorgio Armani. Who can forget Liverpool’s white Armani suits? Both icons have a raft of sponsors – at last count, Messi is currently ‘winning’ with 21 to Ronaldo’s current 11.
“Both had no high-end fashion houses on their books – until now.”
Released on the eve of the World Cup, Louis Vuitton’s campaign aims to seize on the surging interest in football. Interestingly, the campaign does not directly reference the World Cup, which this year takes place in Qatar and has been plagued by allegations of corruption, human rights abuses and a question about holding a sporting event in an extremely hot location. The treatment of migrant workers has been a sticking point. So has Qatar’s history on homosexuality, which is punishable by three years in prison. Competing nations previously planned to wear a ‘One Love’ armband to promote diversity and inclusion but many teams have since reneged on the plan for fear of sporting sanctions.
“I think the ad will be remembered long after 2022: it’s the first collaboration between Messi and Ronaldo, a perfectly timed ad and beautifully shot – that’s the trifecta,” says Martin. “But here’s the rub, both are captains of their countries. Both are idolised the world over with millions of followers and sit at the pinnacle of the world’s most popular sport.
“Will Ronaldo or Messi risk the trappings of luxury suitcases and dare to go against FIFA by leading from the front in their last World Cup and wear the OneLove armband? Who knows. But if one of them did, they’d become the winner, maybe not of a chess game, but a bigger game – life. I can’t see it happening myself, but I bet you’ll be watching the next time they line up to lead their team onto the pitch. Howay the lads!”