Choosing a Winner in a World Cup Brand Battlefield

infographicBy now everyone across the planet is aware of the thrilling World Cup festivities. With many eyes and conversations focused on the ball, another discussion is proliferating the marketing world about the competition taking place off the field, starring two athletic-apparel titans – Nike and Adidas.

Having historically sponsored FIFA since 1970, Adidas has theoretically owned a big piece of the World Cup until now. The company claims, “This is where we put our stake in the ground and prove our domination in the market.” But, despite this official title and category exclusivity to the World Cup rights, Adidas is seeing its competitor take a piece of its pie.

In only the last few years, companies have become decidedly daring, taking leaps to harness real-time events to promote their brands. Take some favorite instances like Oreo at the Super Bowl or Arby’s and the famous Pharrell Grammys hat. Out of these examples came skyrocketing share of voice numbers and awareness levels. And they cost nothing.

bloombergSo, is the $280 million that Adidas is going to spend until the end of its FIFA agreement (in 2030) really worth it?

According to a Global Web Index survey of internet users in the U.S., UK and Brazil, 40 percent of respondents wrongly believe Nike, Mastercard and Pepsi are World Cup sponsors. In fact, Nike was selected as a sponsor by nearly one third of UK and US consumers.

So, although Adidas gets to design the World Cup ball and has guaranteed placement in thousands of pieces of signage, TV shout outs and press announcements, Nike is still putting up a good fight by way of its innovative marketing strategy.

Not only is Nike sponsoring ten World Cup teams (Adidas has nine), including host country Brazil, it’s aligning itself with six of the most well-known players and supplying them with Nike-branded apparel. On top of that, its new “Risk Everything” ad campaign, released ahead of the games, already garnered 80+ million views. Adidas’ promo has less than half that number.

Now, it’s unfair of me to ignore that, yes, a huge sponsorship like Adidas’ offers a boatload of perks. Its word of mouth and social chatter will swell, but this race reminds us about the importance of choosing partnerships carefully.

In addition to being creative strategists, our clients expect us to make smart recommendations, especially when spending their dollars. We are tasked with identifying and presenting sponsorships (or non-sponsorships!) that are smart and move the needle. They need to be relevant, but interesting and maybe even unexpected.

Looking ahead, who will win this World Cup big brand battle? Although it remains to be seen, there’s still a lesson to be learned from this heated rivalry.

Innovate. Be different. Approach a challenge in a new way and people will take notice.

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