June 23rd, 2010
05:03 AM GMT
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The 2010 World Cup is as much a clash of logos, as it is the world’s best soccer players.   Adidas and Nike are in a battle for consumer attention, and money.

Without a doubt, Adidas is the grand-daddy of soccer. For 40 years, the German company has been the main sponsor behind European football.

But at this year's world cup, there's someone in the other corner. Nike, who analysts say is the 800-pound American gorilla of sports marketing.

Both companies want the attention of the billions of people watching the global championships. Both companies want to dominate the estimated $10.9 billion football industry.

Nike’s approach has always been to use celebrity to sell.  It has a corporate history of sponsoring the biggest names in sports, however the World Cup is different. Rival Adidas is already the official sponsor, so how will Nike capitalize?

Sports analysts like Matt Powell say Nike is a master of guerilla, or ambush, marketing, and that's partly how it's managed to elbow its way in to the football market with surprising speed.

“They started with it at the Los Angeles Olympics which were sponsored by converse at the time,” Powell told me in a recent interview.   “Nike took over allsorts of buildings and put their banners on them and that really started Nike into being a very good guerilla marketer. Nike always finds a clever way to get its name out."

It's the kind of confidence that Nike exudes. Hannah Jones, Nike’s Vice President of Sustainable Business, told me on a recent visit to the company headquarters in Oregon: “It's never challenged us in the past. We love our athletes. We love our teams. We're all about celebrating the game. We're all about celebrating that young football crazy obsessed teenager and that is who you see turning up.”

But it's ditto for Adidas, which is certainly not a company heading for the sidelines any time soon.   Before the competition began, company CEO Herbert Hainer told CNN: “We are quite excited for this event. And we have set aggressive targets. We want to achieve new record sales in football. In 2008 we had the best result with 1.3 billion euro and we are absolutely confident we will over-achieve this number."

Soccer is not nearly as big in the U.S .as football is in Europe, and that’s a challenge for Nike. At this year's World cup Nike sponsors nine teams, its most ever, including the U.S., England, Portugal and Holland.

And all its players are sporting uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles gathered in Asia. It’s just one example of how Nike plans to woo the environmentally conscious football fan.

At a recent unveiling of the new football kits, Nike’s Global Football Creative Director Phil Dickinson told me, “I'm super-biased on this but it's the world's best sport and we put the world's best athletes in a sustainable uniform.  It’s inspirational and it’s high on the agenda for Nike, a sustainable business where eventually everything will be reused and recycled.”

So there’s something else to watch at the World Cup. The battle off the field is looking just as interesting as the one on it.

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soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Johannes Davies

    Great article! But you forgot to mention the fact that Nike sponsors most of the players in this world cup and that their shoes are all over the cameras.

    June 23, 2010 at 7:48 am |
  2. Javier Gutierrez

    Good article. Nike does not sponsor the England team. Umbro does.

    June 23, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  3. Drew

    England or the UK as you put it is sponsored by Umbro.

    June 23, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  4. Arthur van der Ley

    @ Johannes Davies
    True, i made the same observation. Most players indeed were the silver-orange Nike mercurial.
    The UK is sponsored by Umbro, not Nike!

    June 23, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  5. Arthur van der Ley

    sorry, my mistake, Umbro is a subsidiary of Nike.

    June 23, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  6. Tomasz

    UK football team isn't sponsored by Nike but by Umbro.

    June 23, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  7. Felipe

    Nike owns Umbro!

    June 23, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  8. Gustavo

    Umbro is a subsidiary of Nike, so there you go

    June 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  9. Lawrence

    Haha many people saying Umbro sponsors England not Nike. First know your facts before posting silly comments xD but there is a point to be made here. Many people don't know Umbro is a subsidiary of Nike, maybe this should be one of Nike's target! To let people know what other brands they own. And personally I prefer Nike over Adidas. Also the new Adidas shirt isn't the best. I mean what is the point of a line above the player's number on the back. It looks ugly!

    June 23, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  10. Drew

    There is no 'UK team'
    UK covers England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

    But yes Nike own Umbro... 'so there you go'

    June 24, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  11. Shazz

    Guys, it is the England National Team, NOT the UK national team. In sports Scotland and Whales have their own teams, there is no UK team at the 2010 World Cup...it will still take some time for NIKE to take over Football, but it may all change since they currently sponsor BRAZIL, host of the 2014 World Cup...

    June 24, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
  12. anil

    @ Shazz its not whales its wales......
    NIKE rox.....

    does anybody what adidas means
    All Day I Dream About Sports

    June 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  13. Joseph

    Adidas forever......................

    June 25, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  14. Mario Andre

    England's sponsor is Umbro... You forgot to mention that Brazil is sponsored by Nike...

    June 25, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  15. A Rahman Al Moshigah

    Great article also you have to mention Puma company who’s sponsor the Most of African teams

    June 29, 2010 at 5:32 am |
  16. Karl Lusbec

    Great article!
    I am touching base on similar topics on my blog.
    Guys, Umbro belongs to the Nike Group. So Colleen is right to add England next to Brazil and Holland in the Nike team portfolio.

    I find the competition between the 2 sports giants very interesting, and they come up with great products, great ideas!

    June 30, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  17. Henry Mayer

    Franz Beckenbauer was the greatest (best) Heplayed for Germany and for Kaiserslautern. I was in the Army in 1953 and I watched him play. He was a magician with the ball, equal to Pele. I watched many of the matches this year and I did not see any player who could equal him. The African teams had some great stars and were fun to watch. The passing skills have a lot to do with the outcome of the games.as does th coaching.

    July 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  18. John Kennedy

    Nike is so diluted the quality of its products is very questionable... all the football (Soccer) tops have no indiviuality...mass produced in some far of land!

    Nike has lost its quality big time...mass produced rubbish!! Nike mortgages next or is that Tesco!

    Adidas and Puma "Now thats what I am talking about"

    July 7, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  19. logo design

    Pretty section of content. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to say that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I'll be subscribing in your augment and even I fulfillment you get entry to persistently rapidly.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  20. NYC fitness events

    The Bottom Line ". Both companies want to dominate the estimated $10.9 billion football industry." It's will end up ugly.Nike shall prevail it always does.

    February 18, 2014 at 3:14 am |

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