Competition is inherent in football – the game itself is based on it, and off the pitch there’s always talk of boardroom battles, bidding wars and mind games.
Away from the clubs themselves, the competition has been equally fierce between the sports brands; sponsorship deals on players, clubs, tournaments and even leagues are all opportunities for product placement by companies with unfathomable sums of money at their command.
Adias marketing at Euro 08
Competitions however have an candid characteristic: they have winners. I’ve grown up on the Nike Vs. Adidas competition, always assuming that both would always be there – but what if one of them achieved the impossible – what if one of them had complete market domination?
In one corner Adidas has an excellent reputation, their heritage is unrivalled (even involving a family feud with Puma!) and shows it in boots like the Copa Mundial and Samba, but they’re no slackers when it comes to research and development either, with their Predator range being arguably the most continuously innovative pair of boots on the market.
The Adidas Copa Mundial
However Adidas has always been something of the underdogs in this battle as Nike has always been (in terms of yearly profit) the ‘bigger company’. As such, Adidas seem to have developed a very defensive strategy; for example it’s not enough to have sponsorship rights to every World Cup since 1994 and through to 2014, but very recently have begun to pay extra to have no Nike adverts played whatsoever during the 64 games broadcast in the English language.
That’s not to say Adidas aren’t capable of taking the initiative, they’ve taken the fight to Nike on their own turf by becoming the official supplier to the MLS, providing all team kits, balls, referee uniforms and equipment. Also, in August 2005, Adidas bought Reebok, meaning that at the time, they were able to bring their business sales figures the closest to Nike’s that they’d ever been.
Adidas designed MLS shirts for Red Bull New York
In the other corner Nike; in the last decade or so have enjoyed a great share of the football boots and equipment market. Thanks to some excellent individual player sponsorship, the public in general are confident of the quality of Nike’s boots. However, the Nike name isn’t as ‘in your face’ as the Adidas brand, with Nike sponsoring far less of Europe’s major tournaments. Only match ball sponsorship in the English Premier League and the UEFA Cup/Europa League springing to mind – so how have they managed a majority share?
Nike has really shone with clever marketing schemes; I’d be willing to bet that 90% of this site’s readership have watched Christiano Ronaldo race a Bugatti Veyron in his Mercurial Vapors or seen Ronaldinho rattle the Nou Camp crossbar with impossible precision thanks to his signature boots; and that’s the reason why Nike don’t necessarily need the sponsorship clout that Adidas flaunt whenever possible.
Very expensive and totally ostentatious – the other one’s a Bugatti!
Not limited to the viral video plane, Nike have also matched Adidas in terms of growth – with Nike’s recent acquisition of Umbro (interestingly enough another Northern-English sports company) is an exciting statement of intent from the American company.
Realistically, both brands will continue in a long and prosperous fashion, but if you had to pick one – who do you think would come out on top – and why?
For once I’m going to come off the fence and say Nike – Adidas have had their financial pitfalls before (See: Bernard Tapie 1989 – 1993) which demonstrates they’re perhaps not as solid as they should be. In terms of products, Adidas are no longer the sole leaders in boot development like they were in 1990’s – Nike have stepped up their innovation recently with boots like the Superfly. Finally they’ve shown incredible creativity in the face of Adidas blocking a number of the conventional routes for advertising.
Coming soon, the Black / Yellow Superfly
But what do you think? Are you impressed by Adidas’ strong-arm sponsorship policies? Or should we be looking at some of the smaller companies who still survive every year thanks to their business models? Drop us a comment and let us know your thoughts!