Friday December 6th 2013 was the day when the official countdown to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil began. The World Cup is known as the greatest show on earth, a sporting extravaganza which reaches a truly global audience. As the chosen countries were divvied into their respective eight world cup groups, senior executives at the world’s leading sports apparel companies leaned back to survey the scene. Nike and Adidas have already backed their horses, as they prepare to play out a battle to outfit the world champions whilst simulteounsly reaching and engaging as much of the world’s population as possible during a 4 week football festival.
For giants like Nike and Adidas, their ability
to come out of a World Cup as victors can set the precedent for the next half of a decade. As champion players like Messi and Ronaldo masquerade in front of the world, cementing their individual reputations whilst trying to drag their country’s to glory, senior executives at some of the world’s largest companies will do likewise.
Adidas have the ideal Launchpad, as sponsors of the tournament itself. This advantage is compounded by them outfitting the reigning world champions, Spain as well as Argentina, who in Messi sports arguably the world’s premier footballer. To cap this trifecta of top teams, Adidas also count their home nation, Germany, amongst their stable of potential world champions.
Nike have taken a broader approach, seemingly slightly less concerned with backing the overall winner but keener to capture teams that have a strong following. With England, the USA and Brazil amongst their stable, Nike have some seriously well backed teams and in Brazil, the favourites to win the competition. In total the company will have ten teams wearing Nike shirts next summer.
Such is the size of the world cup stage, the smaller manufacturers are happy to outfit the underdogs. This approach is being followed by Puma, who are following a ‘value-orientated’ approach to making a splash next summer.
Noticeably absentees include the American giants under Armour. The progressive, tech focussed company promised as long ago as 24 months that they would be moving beyond football to futbol, but Brazil 2014, in its Latin America setting will not be the scene for this opening salvo.
So which kit manufacturer is likely to win the World cup? Taking the betting odds, Nike are the favourites. Their arch enemy, Adidas, have the next five tournament favourites and Puma wade in with the eight and the ninth teams (Uruguay and Italy). The propensity for South American teams to prevail in Latin America is such that many judges have the tournament penned down as a two horse race between Argentina and Brazil, which if true will make the odds of an Adidas or Nike win closer to 50/50. As it stands, Adidas have a 47% chance of winning to Nike’s 36%.
If we switch the outlook to a more commercial perspective, looking at which countries are backed by the big apparel companies based on their buying power rather than merely their likelihood to win the tournament. Nike are more blessed in this department, largely due to their USA association, meaning they will take over 55% of the World cups collective GDP.
Either way, the greatest show on earth is a marketing extravaganza, and the big companies will be fighting for their coverage just as keenly as any of the world’s greatest nations plan to on the pitch.