During the 2019 Champions League final, Nike debuted their big-budget ad, Dream Further. During today’s marquee Women’s World Cup match (USA! USA! USA!), the ad is sure to run again. The cinematic action-packed film features a young girl being brought along to be a part of some pretty big soccer moments. Nike’s emphasis is to encourage girls to get ready and dream big. When I saw the ad for the first time, I knew I had to learn more about that little superstar. Her name is Makena Cook, and a few days after the ad’s debut, I was at one of her club practices in Irvine, California, with her G2009 club team, Slammers FC.
Makena Cook, the Slammers FC star of Nike’s newest World Cup ad
There are 30- and 60-second versions that will air throughout the Women’s World Cup. Here’s the entire 3min ad if you haven’t seen it yet (or want to see it again):
Makena has been around Hollywood for a while now, appearing in TV shows and ads. She and her mom, however, were very clear to me that soccer and her Slammers FC team are just as important to her, if not more so.
On the field with G09 Slammers FC
I wanted to learn more about the “behind-the-scenes” of Nike’s ad, and I also wanted to know more about this little team of ballers at Slammers FC.
For the beginning of practice, Coach Pete Aguirre took the girls through some high-level drills, 1v1, and shooting sessions. Watching the girls play together, it was clear that this team loves each other’s company. Smiles and laughter were constant. The soccer was tough, the 1v1s were intense, but the joy was obvious in the girls’ demeanor and interactions.
At the end of practice, Coach Pete arranged a small-sided “World Cup.” The girls were split into three teams. USA, Brazil, and Argentina battled for title. USA, and their fabulous keeper, came away with the win. Makena, who had been playing for Argentina, rushed the field to celebrate with her goalie. The triumph of the win was overshadowed by the joy of simply being together playing the game they loved.
Time to talk to the girls
With practice over, I brought the girls together to talk about the team and Makena’s Nike ad. They excitedly told me how they won Surf Cup last summer, and that they were just ranked #1 in the nation by US Youth Soccer rankings. This was the first team practice after the “Dream Further” debut, and all of the girls were very excited to talk to me and Makena about the making of Nike’s big-budget masterpiece.
Barcelona, LA, and a side trip to Paris (nbd)
We stood in a little haphazard circle (ok, it was more of a blob than a circle). The girls and I talked, laughed, and and spontaneously danced our way through stories about the team and shooting the Nike ad.
Everyone was excited to hear Makena describe the making of “Dream Further.” Most of the action was filmed in Barcelona on “blue screens.” There were directors that knew exactly what they wanted from each little one- and two-second shot. Makena described, with energy practically bursting from every pore, “There were, like, FIVE cameras going each time. One over there, one over there, a big one in the air, and a dude on this little robot cart that rolled around in front of us. Sometimes we had to re-do stuff because they wanted me to run into a girl a different way, or they thought that it would look better if I would look the other direction. So we had to do all the stuff a bunch of times, but it was so fun. Everyone was so nice.”
One of Makena’s teammates asked which part was the most fun to shoot. Thinking about it, she answered, “Celebrating in the locker room with the French! We just danced and danced. But it was really cold. Every time we had to shoot again, they would spray us with water to make us look all sweaty. Every time! Squirt! SquirtSquirt! Squirt! [imagine a 10-year-old acting out spraying her teammates with a spray bottle, over & over & over] So it was really cold, but it was so fun!”
Some scenes were also filmed at LA Galaxy‘s home field, Dignity Health Sports Park (“Stubhub,” or “Home Depot Center” to most of us). Makena explained that she particularly enjoyed the part of the ad, shot in Los Angeles, that has her taking a free kick for the Matildas.
Happy Birthday in Paris
On her Instagram, I had noticed that she celebrated a birthday in Paris. However, she hadn’t mentioned shooting any of the ad in Paris. I asked Makena’s mom, Stefanie, about that. Mom explained that the ad was being shot during Champions League knock-out games, and Nike had been trying to arrange players and teams who could be a part of the project. Since Champions League results are unpredictable, Nike’s filming schedule had to be flexible, and production shut down for a few days at one point. With Makena’s birthday coming up during the impromptu break, she and mom were given the OK to spend her tenth birthday in Paris. Stefanie chuckled, “That’s a birthday that’s hard to top! She knows she can’t expect something like that every year. Next year, it’ll be back to the pizza parlor and, ‘Here’s a game token, kid. Happy birthday!’“
Friendships and Soccer
While Makena was clearly the reason I had come to this Slammers practice, the team fell into an easy and casual group conversation with me. Clearly, all of the girls are at ease around each other. To Coach Pete’s Slammers, she’s just “Cookie,” another one of the girls. At one point, the girl standing next to Makena said, “It would be cool to do modeling or commercials like that.” Makena turned to her, slung an arm around her shoulder, and with a little squeeze said, “Oh, you could TOTALLY do it! I’ll tell my mom to talk to your mom about it.”
While the world watches the World Cup, and watches Cookie do her thing with the superstars of the world during commercial breaks, the girls of Slammers FC 2009 will be at home in Orange County, having fun playing the game they love. And, of course, they will be cheering on Slammers FC Alum Christen Press. The next big challenge for these girls: Surf Cup 2019. Good luck, Slammers! I’ll see you there!
Here are your action shots from practice, courtesy of Soccerloco. Enjoy! ~Carey @cs9sports