Brands Hoping for World Cup Win

Top athletic brands have already started turning up the volume on their soccer marketing for this year in preparation for the FIFA World Cup, being held in South Africa from June 11 to July 11. And they have good reason: Analysts predict the big three brands — Adidas, Nike and Puma — will each register a bump in sales in the category.

“First, it increases brand awareness, and it also will improve footwear sales by the double digits,” said Uwe Weinreich, an analyst with UniCredit Group.

He estimated that Puma, which is sponsoring several of the African teams, could get a 25 percent to 30 percent sales boost in soccer footwear, apparel and gear.

“But the final race will be between Nike and Adidas,” he said.

Nike will be the sponsor for nine World Cup teams, including the U.S., Brazil, Portugal and South Korea. And Adidas will back 12 teams, including Spain, Germany, France and Argentina, along with the home team, South Africa. It also is marking its 30th year as an official sponsor of the World Cup.

The two powerhouses started launching early buzz-making campaigns this fall that emphasized social networking.

Adidas has been using its pages on Facebook, Myspace and YouTube, as well as a dedicated soccer microsite on, to post news and videos promoting its brand launches, including the Predator X soccer boot, and premier athletes. Molly Maixner, marketing communications manager of soccer for Adidas, said the brand would put the spotlight on players such as Lionel Messi of Argentina and David Villa of Spain.  

“Digital will be the main channel,” said Maixner. “During the 30 days [of the World Cup], people will be glued to their computers, getting results and reading about the games.”

In addition, online promotions will help athletic brands reach the international soccer audience.

“The World Cup is a global stage for us, and Nike is very excited about that opportunity to engage the world and amplify the sport,” said Tim Yu, Nike’s media relations manager for North America.

In addition to promoting top athletes such as Christiano Rinaldo of Portugal and Landon Donovan of the U.S. National Team, Nike is touting several new products for the World Cup. And in many cases, it does both at once. When its CTR 360 boot debuted last fall, Cesc Fabregas of Spain took over the brand’s Facebook page, answering fan questions and offering training tips.

Athletic brands also will be targeting the local audience in Africa. For example, the official game ball for the games, developed by Adidas, is called Jabulani, which roughly translates to “celebrate” in Zulu.

Meanwhile, Nike has partnered with the (Red) organization, which raises awareness about AIDS in Africa. As part of its joint “Lace Up, Save Lives” campaign, Nike is selling red shoelaces, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to The Global Fund and soccer-based initiatives that promote AIDS/HIV prevention.

UniCredit’s Weinreich described Africa as the fastest-growing region for soccer. He said he athletic sales in the area could double after the World Cup, based on what happened to joint hosts Korea and Japan in 2002.

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