3 Powerful Players

According to a Sport+Markt survey, Sportswear brands adidas, Nike and Puma are the most recognisable football sponsors in the top five European markets.[1]

Nike, adidas and Puma will all play a key marketing role on the pitch during the FIFA World Cup 2010.  Indeed, with 12 teams qualified for the event, adidas is leading the way, followed by Nike with 9 teams and Puma with 7 Federations attending.

Since the World Cup 1998 in France, a strong business marketing model has been in place.  Enjoying the exclusive rights of the usage of the FIFA World Cup marks, FIFA partners enjoy significant exposure of the World’s biggest event.  This business model strengthened during the World Cup in Korea & Japan and became a benchmark in 2006 during the fantastic German World Cup.  But if we take a closer look at what is happening on the field of play, the 3 leading football brands will enjoy unprecedented exposure this year.

Let’s start with the 3-stripes.  Indeed, adidas has already secured its ticket for the World Cup final. How?  By having the official match ball for each World Cup game (ongoing since 1970).  Indeed, the Jabulani will be present throughout the whole competition.  Next, with 12 teams participating and key players performing, adidas will send a strong football message…..as usual.  In addition to that, we football marketers will expect a powerful “Impossible is Nothing” campaign with some inspirational onsite marketing activities. I am sure there will be more, much more, but I am writing an article, not a novel.

The answer from Nike will for sure be there but is it going to be an answer?  Who knows, may be Nike will shoot first?  Anyway, the message will be big, powerful, inspirational and we can expect a kick ass marketing campaign from the Swoosh. Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, Fabregas and Pato will be screened and will wear the latest Mercurial or T90 boots. With 9 teams qualified, Nike will also benefit from a strong on pitch exposure. We can expect Nike to send (another) bold football marketing message to the football world. Again here, there will be more from the American brand, but the way the message will be delivered will be worth watching.

Puma have played it differently. At the African Cup of Nations, Puma was everywhere.  On the field of play, Jochen Zeitz’s brand had two teams in the final, launched an inspirational marketing campaign (Love=football), established a solid partnership with Kehinde Wiley[2] and created a bridge between the African Cup of Nations and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  This was smart wasn’t it?  With 7 teams in South Africa, Puma does not want to be left behind, and make its football presence felt.  Puma will count on its African icon Samuel Eto’o to communicate to a broader African and Global audience.

With the increase of social media in football it will be interesting to pay attention to this strong new marketing medium.  Puma, adidas and Nike are all using social media but HOW will they use this platform to interact with fans during the World Cup? How will they engage with the fans and be as close to them as possible? We can expect to see massive activity on Facebook, MySpace etc during the World Cup.

Also the first ever World Cup in Africa triggers a heavy social responsibility outreach, not only from the “Big 3” but from all sponsors and partners involved in the event. I bet there will be an close scrutiny on this point.

Gavin Cowley, Marketing Director of adidas South Africa said[3]:

adidas has a strong social responsibility programme.  Often major events are geared to the big cities.  However the adidas UMU programme visits townships throughout the country, adidas supports the FIFA Football for Hope movement in the townships, a partnership with SCORE (Sports Coaches Outreach) ensures that football is used as a tool to send out strong social messages to young people and there are many other initiatives that contribute to assisting those underprivileged people.”

I would like to think that all other partners or sponsors will have a similar approach. Show the world that CSR is a long term commitment, not a “thrown in” concept with no true involvement.  In a nutshell, I am looking forward to seeing the inspiration and generosity of the marketing giants during the World Cup.  Traditional marketing will happen, but what of new marketing techniques such as social media?

Thinking out of the box, being smart, flexible, bold and true are often the values football brands claim. In South Africa, they will have the pressure to put them all to use more than ever….

adidas: 12 teams

(South Africa, Mexico, France, Denmark, Japan, Argentina, Nigeria, Greece, Paraguay, Slovakia, Germany, Spain)

Nike: 9 teams

(Netherlands, Korea Republic, New Zealand, USA, Slovenia, Brazil, Portugal, Australia, Serbia)

Puma: 7 teams

(Uruguay, Cameroon, Italy, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Switerland)

Umbro: 1 team


Joma: 1 team


Erke[4]: 1 team

(Korea DPR)

[1] http://www.sportbusiness.com/news/171530/sportswear-brands-top-sponsor-recognition-list

[2] http://africa.puma.com/#/artist/

[3] https://digitalsport.co/?p=200

[4] North Korea football shirts made by China, Hongxing Erke Group was founded in June 2000, manufacture and marketing of sports goods under its “ERKE” brands.

About author

Karl Lusbec
Karl Lusbec 7 posts

Karl has over 10 years experience in marketing with Adidas and EA Sports, working with the likes of AC Milan, Liverpool, France and Argentina. Follow me on @KarlLusbec

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