Commentary

Did Nike Just Own Adidas, Again -- Before The World Cup Even Begins?

Look high, look low -- you will not see any mention of the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russian on the Adidas website, and not in its main Twitter presence. Sure, on its website there is a link to play its World Cup video. Oddly enough, there is no mention of the World Cup, FIFA, or Russia.

Take a look at Nike's home page -- the one that shows up in England anyway -- and you'll see several of the national team's stars in their World Cup kits featuring the Nike swoosh. 

I would lay you a bet of at an entire chunky Kit Kat that the lay observer would believe after viewing the two sites that Nike is the official sponsor. Strangely enough, it is, of course, the other way round. It is Adidas that is a top-tier FIFA sponsor, an honour that is rumoured to cost around GBP180m for an eight-year contract (that's two World Cup tournaments).

The Adidas ad that plays, if you're so inclined, is lively and lots of good fun. There are some well-known footballers and other sports stars plus some pop icons too, all having a great time of it while playing a quick game of 5-a-side. I've watched it a couple of times now. Not a single mention of the World Cup, Russia or FIFA and not a sniff of those copyrighted logos and marketing terms it has bought the rights to.

Of course, there are no mentions of the World Cup for the Nike campaign for the very good reason that it is not the official sponsor. However, what we do get is an activation based on the Brazil team that features some of the most famous stars in the world -- there's a rather rotund Ronaldo plus Neymar and Willian. It's about the camaraderie of the changing room, which leads us to a rousing speech, in Portuguese, from a young boy to his teammates all in Brazil shirts. Yes, you guessed it -- we end with the bunch of kids having turned in to the real stars, all huddled round before a game starts.   

Now, I know which one I prefer. Nike is the clear winner that just gets what football is all about. Sorry Americans, the Adidas is all about "soccertainment," a glitzy parade of stars. Nike has shown off its street cred and love of the game, Adidas has shaken its jewellery to show how many stars it can get in a studio at any one time.

It was perhaps not surprising, then, that when Campaign got ex-BBH creative, Bruce Crouch (father of former England star, Peter Crouch) to review this year's World Cup ads, Adidas wasn't even mentioned. However, Nike was named a finalist against Visa who have signed up Swedish icon Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) to front their slightly tongue-in-cheek ad series. That means Nike, which isn't a sponsor, made it to the final and Adidas, which is an official partner, didn't get a look in. 

That may be one person's view but if you look at YouTube, there are around 1 million views for Adidas' ad so far and 7m for Nike's.

There may well be a lot of conjecture over why Adidas hasn't done more to reveal itself as an official sponsor, beyond a campaign video that looks like a general party for icons in which a game of football accidentally, and momentarily, breaks out. I'd suggest its Russia. Remember -- Sony and Emirates pulled out of Fifa sponsorship deals before this World Cup.

Those remaining have a difficult task. They have spent a fortune for the right to use the logos and be associated with the tournament but, in so doing, they are rubbish shoulders with Putin and Russia plus a corrupt-ridden FIFA. It really doesn't get worse when it comes to who a brand wants to seen alongside. 

So, the question is this. Why carry on as a sponsor if you don't want to reference the host country or event organiser in your World Cup advert? Why not do a Nike and produce the better ad, which makes it look like you're a sponsor, but without any of the associated huge expense and risk to brand image of supporting so public a sporting event in Russia?

Actually, there is one more question about World Cup 2018 videos. What were official sponsor Qatar Airways and Nicole Sherzinger thinking when they made this ad? Watch, and thank me later!

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