Two out of the three group stage games are done; we’ve had some upsets and were definitely forced to rethink our pre-tournament predictions! After 180 minutes there have only been two teams who have impressed, and neither of them seemed like likely contenders two weeks ago. With the traditional big football nations disappointing, we’ve got Belgium and Croatia emerging as unlikely favourites. Both nations impressed with their offensive juggernaut, Belgium scoring 8 goals and Croatia 5 in their two opening matches and thus shooting their way into the next round.
Whilst Belgium and Croatia may be the winners on the pitch, we’ve had a closer look at who is winning off the pitch. We didn’t have to look far, the answer is obvious: Adidas and Nike.
The two-sportswear giants have found another global battleground to determine who is the #1 in the football world. There are three major opportunities to prominently feature at the world cup; national team kit partnerships, the boots and official sponsorship.
In the last blog post, World Cup Prediction and Trends, I briefly talked about the success of Nike in relation to the Nigerian kit. Along with the sell out kit for Nigeria, Nike supplied nine other nations with their World Cup kit. In 2014 Nike wasn’t just the dominant kit supplier for the World Cup, but arguably also supplied the most stylish kits. However both finalists, Argentina and Germany are supplied by Adidas.
Whilst Nike stayed consistent, supplying 10 teams in 2014 as well as 2018, Adidas was able to outperform their rivals and sign 12 national team kit partnerships, making them the most worn brand on the football pitch. The other 10 teams, not supplied by Adidas or Nike, are divided between Puma, Uhlsport, Umbro, New Balance, Errea Hummel and Ramai.
Whilst Adidas may have their nose ahead in the number of partnerships, it’s also important to look at how their teams are performing. On average, a team wearing a Nike shirt earned 3.0 points out of their first two games, whilst a team dressed in an Adidas kit earned 3.25 points in those first two games. Notably, the biggest letdowns for Adidas are Argentina and Germany, who haven’t supplied as many points as expected toward the Adidas tally. To have the best chances to win a match, the team should be wearing a Puma kit, which has averaged 4.33 points from their first two games.
The battle of the national kits ever so slightly ends in a victory for Adidas, with Nike trailing behind. Luckily for Nike, their forte lies in the feet of the players.
Much like in the kit partnerships, it’s a three-way fight, if you are so kind as to include Puma in the competition. Whilst Puma has no chance of competing against the two sportswear giants in the kit department, they do have some aces up their sleeves when it comes to the boots. Puma has some serious firing power with their Puma One shoe being worn by Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) and Diego Godin (Uruguay). If you have paid close attention to the World Cup you will have seen Antoine Griezmann in Puma boots as well. The French superstar who scored their opening goal against Australia is wearing Puma Futures throughout the tournament.
It’s been 16 years since a team in a Nike kit have lifted the World Cup, and Adidas sure intend to keep it that way for as long as possible. Whilst Adidas have supplied both finalists with kits in 2014, they are also supplying them with boots for this year’s edition. The majority of Argentina and Germany players are fully kitted out from head to toe in Adidas, however, it appears it’s still not enough to get them to score more goals. You’ll also find the Premier Leagues newest star Mohamed Salah in Adidas boots as well as the 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez. Whilst Messi hasn’t been able to produce his magic just yet, he does have a pair of boots that look magical, the Nemeziz 18+. Let’s see if he can use his bright orange boots to turn things around for struggling Argentina on Tuesday evening.
Nike has consistently dominated the sports footwear industry over the last decade and it’s no different in the World Cup this year. Whilst both Puma and Adidas may have some big names on their side, Nike has 132 of the 200 most valuable players wearing their logo on their boots. Amongst the brand’s ambassadors, you won’t just find superstars Neymar and Ronaldo but also Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. The list of high calibre players is seemingly endless and it’s clear that Nike has spared no expense to extend their dominance. Nike’s dominance was strongly aided by their brand ambassador’s social media presence. Ronaldo alone amassed more than half a billion engagements across the various social media accounts between January and May of 2018. Another example of Nike’s innovative marketing and social media presence was the pre-tournament promotion with the Brazilian football team, which received over 16 million views.
Whilst Nike invested in their social influence, Adidas decided to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into official sponsorships, including the referee’s kit and the match ball. Until 2030 Adidas still has the rights to supply the World Cup’s official match ball, after which undoubtedly they will try to renew their 60-year long contract with FIFA. The German company managed to sell 14 million official match balls, which heavily contributed to their 2.1 billion euro football related revenue. According to Adidas’ CEO Kasper Rorsted, the company is expecting less income from this year’s edition, due to Russia being a far less football obsessed country than previous hosts Brazil.
It’s hard to proclaim a winner in the clash of the sportswear titans if only there was a penalty shootout to crown the winner.