The World Cup Final: Adidas vs. Nike

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Whether you’re a fan of the ‘beautiful game’ or not, there’s no denying that the world has got a big hangover after a month-long spell of football (or fútbol for our South American contingent) fever. A truly global event, the biggest sporting brands find themselves in a privileged position to be able to afford to deliver campaigns befitting of an event of this magnitude. They have been pulling out all the stops with innovative and engaging ways to inspire the world.

Brazil’s almighty fall from greatness was the most tweeted about sporting event to date with 36.5 million tweets during the game. Now that we know who won the title (for those living under a rock this weekend, Germany won 1:0 against Argentina in extra time), here is how we think the World Cup viral video campaigns from the big hitters would have fared in the final; Adidas vs. Nike:

Team 1. Adidas: The Dream (#Allin)

Official ‘Adidas Football’ channel YouTube views as at Monday 14 July: 38,666,246

Duration: 1:15

This video actually made me anxious. Although it’s undoubtedly well shot, it feels a bit like the opening to a horror film. The lonely man kicks a football into crows in a frozen wood ready to play in an epic battleground… last time I checked, Brazil is slightly above ‘tepid’ in temperature.

I get that this whole ‘winning the World Cup’ malarkey is a fairly big deal, but surely popping a couple of Nytol or a Whiskey could prevent Messi from these night terrors, poor little lamb. Although, with Suárez in shot shortly after, perhaps Adidas was pre-empting art matching life.

Not content with its initial offering, a week after the launch of ‘The Dream’ campaign, Adidas launched a second half offering during the group stages, called The Wake Up Call. Which, at the time of writing had clocked up 6,408,060 YouTube views. The video is effectively the same as The Dream, using the same shots, same players and the same music, only it is slightly longer, with some players lying down at the start staring at their shirts before a bit of pre-game foreplay in the form of multi-lingual texting to add to the suspense.

My initial response to Adidas’ campaign efforts is that it misses out on the ‘engaging’ element, instead replacing it with suspense masked as anxiety. Ask yourself if you would share this on your social media feed with your friends? If the answer is no, I think Adidas have scored an own goal in the warm up.

Lets see what Nike have to offer in the coin toss. 

Team 2. Nike: The Last Game (#TheLastGame)

Official ‘Nike Football’ channel YouTube views as at Monday 14 July: 64,435,911

Duration: 5:29

In Nike’s own words ‘There’s no greater danger than playing it safe – Risk everything’. They certainly deliver on the promise. An epic animated five-minute video telling the story of the current World Cup dream team facing their cloned humourless nemeses. Yes, Adidas, they created an entire comic strip whilst you were choosing which of Kanye West’s album B-side tracks portrayed fear most accurately.

Culturally, it also gets it spot on. Right from the start, the animation opens with the music, the atmosphere, the location (panning from the iconic hill statue of Christ the Redeemer and up through to the Favelas), all match up to the atmosphere created in Brazil, with the multi-cultural element added by the players featured. It has got humour and power in equal measure together with a real-world feel, together with commentary. From start to finish the video draws you in, ensuring that you will keep watching to find out who wins in the battle of the players vs. their clones. In true fairy-tale style, the real heroes win and the crowd goes wild.

First half review: A heroic blockbuster-style effort on a par with a Pixar Short.

The results

Where the Nike advert differentiates itself from Adidas is that it has personality (derived from the players’ perspectives), and tells a story. With its dystopian tales of the future of football, one could argue that this is a subtle nod the introduction of goal-line technology - a future of ‘soulless’ football decision making. Maybe I am reading too much into it. Never-the-less their nod to Rooney’s fitness is slightly more obvious to see…

The Nike delivery is also slick, their social presence drip feeds the advert throughout the day to ensure that tweeters across the world can engage with it. Four weeks in, it is still gained huge levels of engagement and interest on Twitter. Although, as @ollywood7 pointed out on Twitter earlier today, every player representing a country in the commercial is out of the World Cup, with their star player Ronaldo eliminated with Portugal at the group stages. Something that Twitter has found quite a good poking stick.


The danger of both brands using real players, animated or otherwise, comes with risks as they don’t know how either the individual (look up Luis Suárez on Google for the case in point), or the team will perform.

One of the goals that Adidas do score is that the video is not only of great quality, but also of quantity, by being optimal in length. The original, at 1 minute 14 seconds, is more likely to be watched in full than Nike’s epic 5 and a half minute offering. According to data reported by The Next Web, viewers watching videos up to 2 minutes in lengths will watch an average of 68% of the video. This drops to 55% for videos that are 5-10 minutes. 

The tagline ‘all in or nothing’ with the strapline ‘Make A Choice’. This is Adidas biggest to date, which at the end of the video allowed viewers to opt in or out of marketing communications, ensuring only quality leads are derived from it, depending on whether they buy into their dramatic take on football advertising. Unfortunately, I've made my choice, the only wake-up call Adidas need is one from Nike, and in the words of Duncan Bannatyne, ‘I’m out’ (of their CRM). The World Cup message is one of courage, not fear, and that is where I think Adidas mis-fires.

However, with a massive 36% increase in their marketing spend in the three months to May, Nike’s success hasn’t come cheap. Although exact figures haven’t been reported, the production of the Nike video would suggest that it has come in slightly more than the reported $50mn price tag attributed to the Adidas offering. It is anticipated, that with any long-running campaign, the return on investment won’t be seen until the next two quarterly results and the initial signs show that sales and orders are both up on the same period last year for the quarter to date, with the World Cup not even underway when the February-May figures were released.

Looking at video streaming alone, even with Adidas’ dual effort, Nike have clocked up almost 20 million more views than their closest rival. But one thing is for certain, both remain uncontested as the King and Queen of global sports brands regardless.

Final score: Nike 2 - Adidas 1. Nike risks everything, and wins. Remember Adidas, you’re only human... you've got four years to clone Nike’s efforts.

So that’s our light-hearted low down on the World Cup video marketing ranks. What these brands highlight to the advertising industry is that the days of the ‘ordinary’ advert are over. To build brand affinity you have to be big, bold and entertaining with your content and marketing mix to influence conversation and hopefully, further down the line, a future purchasing decision.

Many of you may be wondering what you are going to do with your spare time now the football is over, so why not let us know what you think by dropping us a comment below or tweeting us @PerceptiveFlow

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