Nike wrote its future

Hi everyone,
For those who are familiar with My Football Lounge, I have pointed out the major football brands, and the key players in football marketing. Most of them are either FIFA sponsors or FIFA partners. The FIFA World Cup sponsors benefit from a tremendous marketing platform to showcase their producs, link their brand image to the biggest football event in the world, promote  online and offline activities, engage with consumers,  and ultimately have an exclusive component as an official sponsor.

The strategy to heavily invest in being a FIFA sponsor could be justified based on the above mentioned advantages. However, a recent survey by The Nielsen Company* showed that Nike was more frequently linked to the World Cup than any of the tournament’s official partners and sponsors. The survey analyzed online blogs, social networking platforms and came to the conclusion that the Swoosh was fully part of the FIFA World Cup landscape, and engraved in consumer’s minds.

With no doubt, the huge online buzz made by the “write the future” campaign strongly contributed to put Nike under the football spotlights. The viral was launched mid-may and had more than 3 million viewers the first week. So far, 14 million viewers enjoyed the video online.  Nike’s biggest stars were featured in the video:  Drogba, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney and even Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer and Homer Simpson. Not sure the latter is a Nike athlete though.


Rank Brand Type % Share of Official and Competitor Buzz**
1 Nike Non-affiliated Competitor 30.2%
2 adidas FIFA Partner 14.4%
3 Coca-Cola FIFA Partner 11.8%
4 Sony FIFA Partner 11.7%
5 Visa FIFA Partner 7.3%
6 Carlsberg Non-affiliated Competitor 3.9%
7 McDonald’s FIFA World Cup™ Sponsor 2.8%
8 Pepsi Non-affiliated Competitor 2.5%
9 Hyundai/Kia FIFA Partner 2.4%
10 Panasonic Non-affiliated Competitor 1.9%

Source: The Nielsen Company
**Share of online buzz across the 10 sponsors/partners with a global footprint and two of their major competitors in English language messages related to the World Cup from May 7 to June 6.

I pointed out in a previous article, that Nike, adidas, Puma are widely acknowledged as football brands. It seems that not being a FIFA (nor UEFA) sponsor does not stop Nike from succesfully link its brand to the biggest football competition. The “Write the Future” campaign only did not contribute to those facts. I must be added that Nike sponsors 9 teams at World Cup, provides outfit to several players including superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and many others. On top of that, on February 25, the Swoosh launched a powerful campaign “taking ownership” of the sustainable component in football.

This strategy seem to pay off as Nike has managed to leverage its brands, products, activities in football around the World Cup without being a sponsor i.e without paying any sponsorship fees to FIFA.

Let me add one thing. I do remember back in 1994 after the World Cup in the US, a statement from Phil Knight (Co-Founder and CEO of Nike) about football. His goal was to make Nike THE global football brand.  I was a student at that time and was quite doubtful about this objective. To me, Nike was a Basket Ball brand with Michael Jordan as an icon, period.  I bet I was not the only one. However, one year later, Nike partnered with CBF (The Brazil National Team) then with, players, european clubs etc.

The results and facts speak for themselves, but what is interesting to point out is that this achievement has been done without being a FIFA sponsor or partner. Other brands such as Carlsberg or Pepsi are adopting a similar strategy although the results are not yet to be compared with Nike’s.

Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I say that it is not worth it to be a FIFA sponsor. I think  the contrary. It is key for a brand to associate with FIFA hence World Cup and benefit from all sponsorship components. Nevertheless, I must be pointed out that some brands, and in the present case, Nike managed to create a strong link between their brand and an event they do not sponsor. I would echo Pete Blackshaw (Executive vice president of digital strategy at The Nielsen Company) “If you’re a company with a large global footprint, it’s natural to want to associate yourself with a major worldwide event like the World Cup”

I am a big believer in strong competition. It makes other brands work harder, be more creative, think out of the box, and keep the stimulation flow on. For sure, the other football brands will strike back, and it’s….”for the good of the game” right?

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts.

Karl Lusbec

*Nielsen’s study, conducted between May 7th to June 6th 2010, looked at English language World Cup-related messages on blogs, message boards, groups, video and image sites – including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – that mentioned at least one of the 10 official FIFA partners and sponsors with a global footprint or two of their top competitors (30 brands in all).