Two Sports giants—Nike and Adidas—are in the midst of a marketing war during this 2014 World Cup, throwing their endorsements behind players they think will give them the edge in the global market for football merchandise and sportswear. At the heart of this battle are the two most talented players in the game today: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
Nike, the American manufacturer, is looking to overtake German-operated Adidas as the number-one brand in the football market. Nike’s strategy hinges on their signing of more football stars to sponsorship deals for the World Cup in Brazil than Adidas. Out of the ten most famous football stars in the world, Nike has six signed to endorsement deals. Adidas and Puma, also of Germany, have the remaining four.
Ronaldo, who plays for Real Madrid, is the highest paid and most recognizable player in the world. Taking this year’s Ballon d’Or, he has also recently appeared on the cover of Vogue. Messi, aka the Atomic Flea, has won four Ballon d’Or trophies in the past, including the year before Ronaldo took the top honor. Playing for Portugal and Argentina respectively this World Cup, these two top players—and Nike and Adidas by extension—have a chance to go head to head on the field. Both teams have a fair chance of making it to the final.
The action on the field may be exciting, but the war between Nike and Adidas is also being fought out in ads. Nike recently released an ad showcasing their entire World Cup stable of stars. “Winner Stays” features not only Ronaldo but also Brazil’s Neymar, England’s Wayne Rooney, along with Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gerard Piqué, Gonzalo Higuaín, Mario Götze, Eden Hazard, Thiago Silva, Andrea Pirlo, David Luiz, Andrés Iniesta, Thibaut Courtois, and Tim Howard. Adidas struck back with “The Dream: All In or Nothing”, where Messi dreams of on-field confrontations with football stars Dani Alves, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luis Suárez, Xavi, Jordi Alba, Mesut Özil, Robin van Persie and David Villa. Both ads have garnered millions of views.
Both companies have dizzying amounts of money at stake in the football market. Adidas just edges out Nike in profits made from football—which includes sales of football boots, jerseys, and balls— making $2.7 billion to Nike’s $2 billion.