In the U.S., Landon Donovan is the hero whose last-minute goal gave the nation its first World Cup group win in 80 years. In Mexico, he's a renowned villain who plays a bad guy in a series of Mexican TV ads. As the spokesman for a Grupo Televisa (TV) soccer-betting game called Gana Gol, his job is to get under Mexicans' skin.
In one way or another, Donovan has been doing that ever since he scored his first goal against the Mexican national team in 2000. He was caught on tape in 2004 relieving himself on the field of revered Mexican team Chivas. Last year he caused a stir by insisting that the U.S. could beat Mexico "anywhere else in the world" except Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, where the Americans traditionally struggle.
In a Gana Gol spot, Donovan sneaks across the border into Mexico, clad in a zarape, a sombrero, and a giant mustache. A guard catches Donovan, and under interrogation, the California native explains in fluent Spanish (Donovan is bilingual) that he's sneaking in because "in Mexico, it's easier to win!" The patrolman growls, and Donovan says he's only talking about the opportunity to win at Gana Gol. Ordered to return to the U.S., he runs off, muttering an expletive Mexicans use to taunt soccer opponents.
The bottom line: The U.S.-Mexico rivalry makes Donovan the perfect bad guy for Mexican marketers.