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World Cup 2014 News: Nike, FIFA Sponsor Adidas Clash for Soccer Market Control During Brazil Tourney

First Posted: Jun 11, 2014 05:02 PM EDT
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Nike(Photo : Getty Images/Raphael Dias)

Nike's and Adidas' battle for the hearts and minds of soccer fanatics will take corporate center stage during Brazil's 2014 World Cup, as both sneaker giants launch high-profile campaigns capitalizing on the passion of the global sport.

"Passion is intrinsically tied to the sport of soccer, so the brands that will activate the best and stand out from the clutter are the ones that will be able to connect emotion motion and creativity to their brand identity," said Josh Farber, account director for sports and entertainment marketing company OMG's Optimum Sports to AdWeek.com.

While Adidas has been synonymous with the World Cup since 1970, with FIFA organizers striking a sponsorship deal with the sneaker company that included providing the soccer balls used throughout the tournament, Nike made a splashy jump into the soccer business in 1994, signing a long-term deal with Brazil during the 1994 World Cup held in the United States. Nike has expanded quickly into the soccer market during the last 20 years, earning $1.9 billion in soccer revenue in 2013 to Adidas' estimated $2.4 billion.

"Although we're not a sponsor of the World Cup itself, we connect where it matters, by partnering with clubs, federations, and elite and everyday players," said Dermott Clearly, Nike's global vice president and general manager for soccer, to the Associated Press. "Ten teams at the tournament will wear Nike on the pitch in Brazil, including the hosts, along with hundreds of the players who will wear Nike boots. We're confident we will stand out on and off pitch better than any other brand."

Nike has the most teams representing "The Swoosh" in the 2014 World Cup, providing kits for (host country) Brazil, England, France, Portugal, Netherlands, U.S., Greece, Croatia, South Korea and Australia, while Adidas is sponsoring nine teams (defending World Cup champions Spain, Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Nigeria).

Thus far, according to Fanatics.com, the largest online retailer of officially licensed team merchandise, the top selling jerseys going into the World Cup opening ceremony are USA (Nike), Brazil (Nike), Italy (Puma), Portugal (Nike), and England (Nike).

The sports apparel companies have also gone toe-to-toe in trying to sign the biggest and most marketable stars in the game to bolster their presence at the World Cup, with the two biggest soccer rivals signed to opposite brands. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's most marketable soccer player on the planet with an 83.87 percent name recognition and who plays for La Liga's Real Madrid club team, is a Nike guy. The second most marketable star in the world, four-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi -- who plays for Real Madrid nemesis Barcelona -- is signed to Adidas, further adding to their rivalry.

Nike, in fact, has used their old formula to peck away at Adidas' dominance on the market, signing the top talent in the game -- much like they did with their basketball brand -- and currently having six of the top ten marketable soccer stars on their corporate roster.

Nike "Winner Stays On" Commercial featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gerard Piqué, Gonzalo Higuaín, Mario Götze, Eden Hazard, Thiago Silva, Andrea Pirlo, David Luiz, Andrés Iniesta, Thibaut Courtois, Tim Howard, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva & Kobe Bryant

"As far as the World Cup itself goes, Adidas' position in the fold, I would argue, probably presents a stronger proposition," said Andrew Walsh, director of enterprise services for Repucom, a London-based marketing research firm. "But that doesn't mean that over the longer term, and there's more of a slow-burn strategy, that Nike isn't going to continue to make inroads into the soccer market."

Adidas sees Nike in their rearview, especially with Adidas' sales in 2013 having failed to meet expectations, and will leverage their long-time connection with the World Cup as much as possible to keep Nike at bay. Ernesto Bruce, director of soccer for Adidas America, believes that because of Adidas' traditional ties with the World Cup, that "this is where we put our stake in the ground and prove our domination in the market," while Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer feels confident that the company's sales will rebound because of the tournament, targeting record sales of $2.8 billion dollars as part of the "World Cup bounce."

"Forget all you may have heard or written about a weak Adidas performance in football in 2013," said Hainer. "We are leading this category that is so close to the Adidas DNA. 2014 is a football year and it will be an Adidas football year."

Adidas "The Dream" Commercial featuring Lionel Messi, Dani Alves, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Suárez, Xavi, Jordi Alba, Mesut Özil, Robin van Persie & David Villa (music by Kanye West)
 

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