Nike v Adidas: The brand World Cup

The 2014 World Cup is just days away. Aside from the battle for dominance between the world’s greatest players it will also see the latest chapter in the rivalry between Nike and Adidas

Nike has traditionally outshone FIFA sponsor Adidas in terms of Buzz and acclaim for its marketing and this year is no different but fresh data shows early signs it is winning the battle for customers as well.

The stakes are high for both. The American company is looking to outdo last year’s $2bn (£1.2bn) in football sales, while Adidas has targeted €2bn (£1.6bn) from football sales this year as it looks to offset sales declines across many of its key markets and categories.

This week a saw a blitz of advertising and content in the run-up to opening match. Nike has crafted animated avatars of World Cup pin-ups Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr as part of its “Risk Everything” strategy. It is backed by videos from the brand’s football academy alongside a rundown of 25 defining football moments in its history.

Adidas has called on international legends David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane to star in the latest execution of its ‘All in, or nothing’ campaign (see below) and launched its 24-hour newsroom in Brazil as well as prepping a host of YouTube content, including a ‘Soccer AM style show, to run through the tournament.   

Underlying both campaigns, are attempts to hone how effectively channels such as video work in harmony with ecommerce and social media instead of using them in isolation to muddle the brand experience.

Magdalena Kondej, head of apparel and footwear at Euromonitor International, says the content drives from both companies will create further volume growth and also command a premium charge as consumers understand the price value relationship. The observation was reflected by Nike chief executive Mark Parker in March, who said he had seen an increase in the move towards premium products over the last year and limited resistance towards charging higher prices.

The rivals have spent the last 12 months tightening their distribution channels to exploit the trend. Adidas and Nike have gradually been pulling support for smaller outlets and discount chains such as Sports Direct in favour of more premium outlets such as Footlocker and JD Sport. The German business has also been expanding its retail footprint worldwide, particularly in Brazil where its 20 stores trail Nike’s 31. Nike had a 12.1 per cent share of the Brazilian market in 2013 against Adidas’ 5.5 per cent, according to Euromonitor.

Kondej adds: “Nike and Adidas see the benefit of creating their own retail environments so that they can tie the in-store experience closer to what they’re doing elsewhere in their marketing.

“We’re expecting the main [summer] sales spikes for Nike and Adidas to come from Brazil although apparel sales are looking like they will be disappointing in general due to the country’s political unrest. Post World Cup will be the key sales period when kids go back to school and the domestic seasons start up again.”

The efforts to date have seen Nike take a commanding lead over Adidas when it comes to harnessing buzz around their brand and the World Cup. Nike secured 200,118 social mentions between the 20 April and 6 June, according to communications agency Way to Blue, with 99,725 positive affinity mentions about the brand and its World Cup campaign. Adidas sparked 88,041 mentions in comparison with 9,530 of these posts discussing a positive affinity with their campaign.  

However, it is not just in the attention stakes Nike seems to be winning out. Purchase intent for the American company jumped 2.1 points to 14.6 over the last month, a statistically significant rise according to YouGov’s Brand Index, while Adidas’ score dropped 0.3 points to 10.9.

Nike also took top spot in terms of purchase consideration, which rose by just 0.1 to 37.3 in comparison to Adidas’ score dropping 0.6 to to 35.7 points in period.

Scott McLean, co-founder of content marketing consultancy the Intelligent Marketing Institute, says: “People will judge the battle between Nike and Adidas by how much chatter they generate but the real war will be waged around how they take the audience on a structured journey that leads them to a footlocker or a website to make a transaction.”

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