Nike and Adidas get in the World Cup game

Football-themed advertisements rack up YouTube views ahead of kick-off in Brazil

"There is no greater danger than playing it safe," according to Nike's "Risk Everything" World Cup campaign. It's "all in or nothing", claims the not dissimilar message in Adidas's all-star advertisement.

The first ball of the month- long tournament might not be kicked until tonight, but the art of collecting brand brownie points – while making the average World Cup encounter seem akin to the most momentous battle ever – is well under way.

Adidas has racked up 33 million views on its official YouTube channel for a spot called The Dream featuring players such as Lionel Messi, Dani Alves, Mesut Özil, Luis Suárez and Robin van Persie. The advertisement, created by agency TBWA and launched during the Champions League final on May 24th, is directed by Brazilian film director Fernando Meirelles.

The latest instalment in an impressively viral Nike campaign by advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, meanwhile, has daringly opted for a 5½-minute animation.


In The Last Game, "flawed" and "reckless" human footballers are losing out to a breed of "perfect" footballers who bore spectators by playing "like it's just a job". Animated versions of Nike-signed players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Brazilian star forward Neymar fall down on their luck, only to reconvene for one last sudden-death fixture against the clones.

Nike is the bigger sportswear brand of the two companies but, for football alone, Adidas retains its historic advantage, collecting an estimated $2.4 billion (€1.78 billion) in soccer revenue last year compared to Nike’s $1.9 billion.

Nike sponsors 10 of the 32 participating teams, including the home team of Brazil, while Adidas clothes nine teams (including the fancied Germany, Argentina and Spain). It is also one of the main sponsors of the World Cup itself, acting as the official ball supplier since 1970.

The sportswear companies are not the only corporations shelling out undisclosed millions on long-term brand maintenance. The official partner list of world football governing body Fifa comprises Coca-Cola, Emirates, Visa, Sony and the Hyundai motor group alongside Adidas.

The tournament's sponsors also include the usual suspects, including McDonald's and Budweiser, plus the more surprising addition of Irish poultry producer Moy Park, through Brazilian parent Marfrig.

In classic sports-event fashion, other brands with no official connection to Fifa or the World Cup will be alluding to the tournament in football-themed advertisements.

This year's competition for who can produce the most self-consciously epic advertisement features a relative newcomer. Apple-acquired Beats by Dre has produced a starry five-minute music video-style advertisement for its Solo2 headphones.

Featuring several players engaged in pre-game rituals, The Game Before the Game has attracted 7.7 million YouTube views and counting.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics