Nike Risks Everything on Soccer Promotions as World Cup Kickoff Nears

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With the World Cup just four days away, millions of fans worldwide are gearing up to watch who will come out on top of the prestigious tournament—the same which goes for marketers who are waging millions of dollars on the global exposure. 

The battle between Nike and adidas, the world leader in football-gear sales, has played out across the screen for months leading up to the global sporting event, of which adidas is the official (and longtime) sponsor. But while adidas may have the edge for now, Nike has been gaining quickly thanks to its innovative technology and marketing strategies.

Today, Nike released a five-minute World Cup-themed short film, “The Last Game,” featuring animated versions of the sport’s best players, from Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo to Brazil’s Neymar Jr., under the Nike Football campaign tagline, “Risk Everything.” The film, Nike says, “tells the tale of a world where football has become bereft of risk and beauty, and only the world’s greatest players can save the game from extinction.”[more]

The short film is just the latest World Cup-themed move from the brand, which is not an official sponsor of the event, but just opened its first pop-up store in Brazil, with “Phenom House” in Rio billed as a brand experience celebrating innovation, football and culture.

Still, much like it did at the London Olympics, Nike has managed to steal away market share and attention for its showy marketing tactics. “The Last Game” follows Nike’s “Winner Stays” short film under the Risk Everything banner, which has passed 72.9 million views on YouTube since it was posted on April 25, and the first “Risk Everything” spot, which has attracted 12.9 million views since it was released on April 1.

In addition to “The Last Game,” whose The Incredibles-like storyline also echoes Samsung’s #Galaxy11 Earth vs. aliens battle (that also features Ronaldo and Leo Messi, among others), Nike has been building out the campaign with US marketing events in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, as well as a new Nike Soccer mobile app that allows consumers to connect over the brand’s Nike Academy, buy gear and follow the pros. 

”Although we’re not a sponsor of the World Cup itself, we connect where it matters—by partnering with clubs, federations, and elite and everyday players,” commented Nike’s Dermott Clearly, global VP and general manager for soccer, to the Associated Press.

”Ten teams at the tournament will wear Nike on the pitch in Brazil, including the hosts, along with hundreds of the players who will wear Nike boots. We’re confident we will stand out on and off pitch better than any other brand.” In comparison, adidas has designed the uniforms for nine teams at this World Cup, while Puma can claim eight of them.

Eager to best Nike on the content marketing front, adidas is set to launch The Dugout on Thursday. The streaming channel will feature youth-oriented World Cup programming on Google+ Hangouts and YouTube Live that will include guests answering questions from fans submitted via social media, according to MediaWeek.

In another World Cup move, adidas just debuted a new spot featuring soccer greats Lucas Moura, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Gareth Bale tearing it up in Casa Beckham. (Luckily, Victoria wasn’t at home.) 

• Connect with Mark on Twitter: @markjmill

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