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Who Won the World Cup? Nike or Adidas

Harvard Business School analyses the impact of both Nike and Adidas’ marketing approaches.

With approximately 2.6 billion people worldwide following the 2010 World Cup, the spectacle has been a field day for marketers, each trying to connect their brand with the strong emotions fans have for their favorite teams. But the stakes are particularly high for those brands that actually sell football gear. Two contenders, Adidas and Nike, each have a shot at becoming undisputed market leader when the whistle blows on July 11 and the final game concludes. Coming into 2010, their records show them evenly matched: each is estimated to have earned $1.5-1.7 billion in football merchandise sales in 2008 and 2009, and each controls about a third of the total market.

Adidas is playing its tried and tested strategy of being the official FIFA sponsor of the World Cup games. This means the referees wear Adidas uniforms, the footballs are Adidas-branded and televised ads for football apparel and equipment during matches can only be, you guessed it, for Adidas. 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.

Nike meanwhile had to come up with a different approach…