Who Won the 2014 World Cup Marketing War?


Hi everyone,
The World Cup is over. On a marketing stanpoint, we saw great activations from adidas and Nike. But who “won” the marketing war? This is my take.

A few weeks ago, I was wondering whether being an World Cup official sponsor was worth the investment. Since World Cup sponsors and partners contribute up to $400 million to FIFA revenue, it is a fair question. It’s a fair question considering the exposure non official sponsors get through communicating smartly around an event they are not officially linked to.

Let’s look at the facts

Social Media:

According to social media analytics firms Simply Measured and Sysomos, adidas was the the “most talked about brand” related to the 2014 Fifa World Cup,” generating 1.59 million conversations across Twitter, Facebook, blogs and Tumblr.

Adidas also pointed out an increase of 5.8 million followers across all major social media platforms, more than any other sports brand.

Overall, key figures relating to the adidas “all in or nothing” campaign include:

• 1.59M conversations – Most talked about brand related to the 2014 FIFA World Cup
• 5.8M – Increase in followers across all major social media platforms
• 14.5% – Fastest growing soccer community in social media
• +38M – Most viewed sports brand on YouTube; based on videos published during the tournament period
• 2.98M (603%) – Growth of @brazuca Twitter handle in the tournament period
• 917K – Most used brand hashtag on Twitter (#allin)

adidas Football had the largest social media community growth across sports brands throughout the tournament, showing a 14.5 percent increase. Share of voice across all key social media platforms in the tournament was also 22 percentage points higher than the nearest sports brand competitor.

Also, #F50 was the most used soccer footwear hashtag on Twitter during the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament with 257K mentions.

On the other hand, Nike’s “Risk Everything,” campaign including “Winner Stays” and “The Last Game” reached more than 400 million online views to date.
On the day World Cup kicked off, Nike launched a spot featuring late Ayrton Senna boosting Brazilian pride. A clip that was viewed more than 5 million times.

Twenty-three million people engaged with the content by liking, retweeting or commenting, making “The Last Game” one of Facebook’s most shared posts ever.

Nike extended the campaign by creating real-time animations, such as the #AskZlatan digital shorts. The animated Zlatan Ibrahimovic commented on Nike’s teams and players through short videos posted on social media and through media partnerships, resulting in 20.6 million online views and 12 million consumer engagements.

What are the results?
adidas was the most talked-about brand on Twitter during the World Cup, according to ListenFirst’s analysis. adidas 917k mentions of #allin on Twitter is more than three times as much as any other brand during the tournament.

Nike Football gained 6.2 million new followers during this time across different social platforms, around 1.5 million per week throughout the tournament. This brings the cumulative total of Nike Football’s social channels to 78.8 million followers.


On a sales standpoint, prior to World Cup, adidas set the sales bar to $2 billion for the football category. After the German victory, team shirts went on sale on the Adidas website for €84.95 each. Within hours they were all gone – and the company had to fly more in from China.

Adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer commented: “This World Cup has been an outstanding success for Adidas and clearly underlines our position as the world’s leading football brand. From having both finalists, the winning team and all three Adidas golden award winners to being the most talked about brand in social media, we were able to dominate the tournament on and off the pitch.”


The adidas Battle Pack series of cleats – designed specifically for this FIFA World Cup also performed outstandingly, both on and off the field. The Adidas adizero F50 was the highest scoring cleat of the tournament, with 46 goals, including three of the top scorers in the tournament wearing the Adidas adizero F50 boot (James Rodriguez of Colombia with 6, Thomas Müller of Germany with 5 and Lionel Messi of Argentina with 4).

At this FIFA World Cup, players wearing adidas had a 30% higher rate of goal scoring compared to players wearing next best competitor’s products.

However, Nike Boots were worn by more than 50% of the 736 players participating in the group stage. Also, Mario Götze, a Nike player scored the winning goal for Germany and Nike outlines this fact.

Sports Marketing

In addition to the social media successes, adidas also outperformed all competitors on the field of play:

• Brazuca, the adidas official matchball
• Customised Brazuca for the World Cup final
• Two adidas finalists including the winners, Germany
• Most tournament assists – Juan Cuadrado
• Golden ball – Lionel Messi 
• Golden Glove – Manuel Neuer
• FIFA Fair Play Award – Colombia
• FIFA Team of the Tournament – 8 Adidas players out of 11

adidas also reacted extremely quickly when Argentina qualified to the World Cup final….

…. and when Germany lifted the trophy with the 4ever clip:

So, who won the World Cup Marketing War?

adidas is a clear winner. Winning the social media battle was perhaps the hardest and least expected.  Being an event sponsor is a clear bonus from that perspective. However, although adidas did win the social media battle, Nike put up hell of a fight at all levels.

I often point out that competition creates emulation, and Nike’s products (especially the new Mercurial), social media campaigns, experiential marketing urged adidas not to sit on their official event sponsor laurels and be creative, engaging and entertaining.

As a football marketer, I noticed that adidas was (unusually) extremely agressive. At the end of the YouTube version of #allin or nothing  film, it asks viewers to click one of two buttons – ‘all in’ or ‘nothing’.
Click ‘all in’ and you are taken to a further site where you can then sign up to follow adidas during the World Cup and be party to all its social media activity, or click ‘nothing’ and you can opt out. 

In other words, you get the full adidas experience or……nothing.

Nike was as usual fun, bold, on the offense, entertaining and extremely creative. The “Last Game” animation is just great. Now, Nike did a great job at World Cup and so far, it’s the only non official sponsor that got the strongest connection to the event.

We are part of an exciting industry. Fantastic products, great marketing activations, entertaining social media campaigns, new trends, etc….make football marketing so unique, and I can’t wait for the next event!

Karl Lusbec

[Source: Ad Week, Marketing Week, Soccer Bible, Footy Headlines, Nike, adidas]