Adidas and Nike battle for soccer supremacy in World Cup year

Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:47am EDT
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By Keith Weir and Emma Thomasson

LONDON/BERLIN (Reuters) - With the soccer World Cup only three months away, Adidas and Nike are squaring up for a marketing battle to match the fierce on-field rivalry of nations like Brazil and Argentina.

The sportswear giants dominate a soccer kit industry worth more than $5 billion annually. They vie for the title of market leader in the supply of hi-tech boots and jerseys to fans inspired by Argentine Lionel Messi, who wears Adidas, or new Brazilian idol Neymar, who is in the Nike camp.

A bootmaker since the 1950s and a World Cup sponsor, Germany's Adidas regards soccer as its territory and wants to avoid being overtaken by younger but larger American rival Nike, as has happened in other sports.

"Forget all you may have heard or written about a weak Adidas performance in football in 2013. We are leading this category that is so close to the Adidas DNA," Chief Executive Herbert Hainer said last week.

"2014 is a football year and it will be an Adidas football year," he added, targeting record annual soccer-related sales of 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion).

However, Hainer conceded that competition is fierce, with the top two brands sharing upwards of 80 percent of the market for many soccer products.

Nike has built its business swiftly, having got heavily involved in soccer only 20 years ago when the World Cup was played in the United States. It generates revenues of $2 billion from the sport and calls itself the leading soccer brand.

It will provide kit for hosts Brazil and a total of 10 of the 32 finalists this year - outscoring Adidas and Puma in that regard.   Continued...

The logo of Adidas, the world's second largest sports apparel firm, is pictured in a store in Munich March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Dalder