Who really won the World Cup?

15 Jul

Who really won the World Cup?

After 64 matches and an estimated global following of 2.6 billion people, Spain lifted the iconic trophy for the first time on Sunday. However, behind the scenes of this incredible World Cup a far bigger battle has been raging between two fierce rivals – Adidas vs Nike. Both brands have been slugging it out to try and win the World Cup in their own way by using very different tactics, but the question is, which brand really won?

Adidas has been an official sponsor of the World Cup since 1970 and is rumoured to have spent close to £75 million to be one of Fifa’s top tier sponsors. This investment entitles Adidas to provide the uniform for the referees, official match ball and – most significantly – the televised adverts for football apparel and equipment during matches. Moreover, Adidas is the official sponsor for 12 of the 32 teams playing in the World Cup — so the uniforms of teams such as Germany, Argentina, and Spain (all of which advanced to the quarter finals) were emblazoned with the Adidas logo. Pretty good coverage all in all.

On the flip side, Nike – who weren’t an official sponsor – had to take a different approach, but one that required a significant investment. Shrewdly, in the weeks before the games began, Nike released the three-minute viral video advert “Write the Future”. The excellently produced and directed advert featured some of football’s most famous players (all in Nike gear) imagining what their future would be if they were to make or fail to make a certain play in the game – ironically Ronadinho who was featured fairly significantly in the advert didn’t event make the Brazilian World Cup Squad. Nike used social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to drive engagement with the advert, adding personalisation elements to the campaign where individuals could ‘write their own future’ and pass it on to others, thus spreading the campaign, quickly, virally and most of all cheaply.

Nike also supported its online campaign with “Write the Future” elements in more traditional media. Although it could not advertise during the televised games, its advert was shown on channels airing at the same time on other channels, and on soccer matches prior to the start of the games. The success of the campaign has been indisputable. Five weeks after its debut, the online spot has been viewed by over 20 million people. According to a Nielsen survey that tracks brand buzz (by examining brand references in blogs, online message boards, and social networking sites), by mid June, Nike enjoyed more than double the share of buzz associated with the World Cup than its rival Adidas (30.2% share of buzz vs. 14.4%, respectively).

So, Adidas took the more traditional route with sponsorship and Nike followed the less traditional route (or is it now traditional?) of tapping into social media and digital channels, but which brand won? In very literally goal scoring (excluding own goals) terms Nike netted 62, Adidas 61, Puma nine, other 11 (143 goals). Nike said that there were two own goals that were scored by Adidas boots. Including these, this put Adidas at 63, Nike 62, Puma 9, Other 11 (145 goals). A Nike spokesman also pointed out that eight of the players on the pitch for Spain in the final against Netherlands wore Nike, including Iniesta.

It is also reported that Nike boasted that soccer ball sales were up 40% since last quarter, and that their order book for the next six months went up around 20% since last year. Not to be outdone, Adidas sold roughly 6.5 million replica jerseys, more than double of what they sold during Germany’s 2006 games and 13 million soccer balls, more than Adidas has ever sold. Therefore both had prolific sales during the World Cup but most importantly, were the general public able to recall which brands played a significant part during the games?

Nielsen tracked national advertising and found that FIFA sponsors connected better with World Cup fans than non-sponsors and that fans had higher recall of the sponsors’ brands. In the end the data revealed the five primary World Cup television sponsors — Adidas, AT&T, Budweiser, Hyundai and Sony — generated a 55% higher on average “net likeability” score among those polled compared to commercials from other, non-sponsor World Cup advertisers. In addition, the primary sponsors also scored 16% higher on brand recall on average for sponsors.

Some may argue that due to these brands having such a prolific brand presence throughout the World Cup, we become saturated with their messaging and don’t notice them as much after their first push, whereas smaller brands such as Bavaria beer spend a lot less money on one stunt that creates a lot more buzz. In the end it looks like Nike won the battle by capturing the hearts and minds of the public and press with its creative and engaging marketing strategy but Adidas looks to have stolen the brand victory, in extra time. Let’s just call it a draw….

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