All eyes will be on South Africa in three weeks' time, when 32 countries compete for the title of the greatest soccer team on the planet at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Soccer (or football, as it's called in most of the world) is the most popular sport on the planet, bar none. Global sales of soccer products reached $10.8 billion in 2008, and expectations for 2010 are higher than that.
Adidas hopes to maintain its leadership position as the world’s biggest and boldest soccer brand by sponsoring the tournament, which kicks off June 11th. To further defend the brand's status, Adidas will sponsor FIFA World Player Messi, and one-third of the World Cup teams.
Herbert Hainer, Adidas' CEO is confident in his brand’s position going in, telling Bloomberg Businessweek: "We have protected our ground fairly well. Football is, of course, the heart and soul of our company."
“This summer, in South Africa, Nike will give footballers an edge by providing the newest and most innovative product for the game’s greatest players,” counters Charlie Denson, President, Nike Brand.
“We are equipping athletes with newly designed uniforms that not only look great and deliver performance benefits, but are also made with recycled materials, creating less impact on our environment.”
Indeed, all Nike’s national teams will be sporting jerseys made from recycled polyester that Nike’s fabric suppliers sourced from plastic bottles in Japanese and Taiwanese landfill sites.
A comparison of the rival brands' World Cup collections shows the Adidas official collection with 201 products, while Nike is currently selling more than 300 World Cup products.
The brands' World Cup rivalry has a storied past. In a defensive move after the 2006 World Cup finals, Adidas doubled its sponsorship of the German national team – an Adidas team since 1954 – to 20 million euros, some US$25.7 million annually. The tactical move aimed to prevent Nike from signing the German team and assuming the coveted spot.
Adidas’ annual sponsorship deals with the FIFA global league’s six top teams now total $125 million, and in 2008, their soccer sales reached $1.8 billion.
Nike's soccer franchise, in comparison, is worth $1.7 billion, with $75 million yearly for rights to game-related gear for five teams.
Stay tuned. The competition on the field will be keen, but so will the fierce rivalry between two brands – both vying for dominance in the biggest sports business franchise on the planet.