Monday, March 27, 2006

World Cup intensifies Adidas - Nike 'football war'

Businessweek magazine tracks the hugely expenisve "football war" between adidas and Nike: The World Cup's global TV and Web audience is bigger than the Olympics' or the Super Bowl's -- 28 billion in-home viewers worldwide. Adidas is an official sponsor and paid for the rights to shut Nike out of TV advertising in the US for all 64 games. It's vital for Adidas "to dominate the World Cup," says CEO Herbert Hainer ... Nike isn't about to concede any sport to Adidas ... "Our goal is to be the No. 1 [soccer] brand in the world," says Nike President Charlie Denson.

Locked out of ad placements in the US during the World Cup games, Nike is going guerrilla to get exposure. While Adidas blows its dollars on traditional ads, including locking up most of the outdoor signs in Germany, where the matches are being played, Nike is taking the viral and digital route. The company teamed with Google Inc to create the world's first social network for soccer fans, Joga.com ... Nike is making the site a replica of top social network site MySpace.com for soccer-mad fans to commune with each other over their favorite players and teams, download videos, create discussion groups, and the like ... "It's this enormous focus on everything [soccer] that exists nowhere else that could make Joga.com so rich," says Stefan Olander, Nike's global digital director ...

Adidas is betting on buzz-generating designs and sponsorships of its own to win back share. Last year the company introduced a $250 computerized running shoe, Adidas 1, with a microchip that senses fit and performance and helps change the shoe's shape during a run. And it's looking to its World Cup ad blitz to position the recently launched +F50 Tunit soccer boots as the must-have footwear for soccer players ...
Addressing local design trends is paying off, too. Adidas took the lead from Nike in Japan after sponsoring the Japan national team in the 2002 World Cup and by coming up with the adiZero, a lightweight, thin-soled sneaker that hit the spot with Asian consumers. Adidas is growing faster than Nike in other Asian markets, too, notably in China. It spent $80 million to be the exclusive sneaker sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

"Nike could be rocked back on their heels...this all sets the stage for [expansion in] China," says Jeffrey Bliss, president of Javelin Group, a sports marketing firm. In fact, Adidas' gains in Asia pushed Nike to spend $44 million to sponsor the India national cricket team ...

See also: Adidas fights off Nike/Puma 'World Cup' challenge (21 Mar) and Nike introduces India to Man United Premier Cup (17 Mar) and Nike reveals World Cup kits of eight nations (13 Feb) and Adidas confirms soccer growth targets in 2006 (13 Feb)

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