If there is one thing I have taken away from the 2014 World Cup, it is not Netherland’s dominance, Spain’s unexpected fall from grace, or the sparked claims of the best offensive World Cup ever. No, the lesson here is that in the battle for World Cup marketing buzz, creativity is king. Just what exactly am I talking about?

Once again, Nike has outcompeted Adidas in terms of buzz volume and social mentions during the World Cup. The difference? Only Adidas pays for official sponsorship.

Product Placement:

Despite the Adidas brand appearing on official player jerseys, field boards, and the tournament ball, Nikes’ product placement appears where it counts the most: on player’s feet. I hardly remember Adidas product content, yet I can easily recall numerous slow motion replays that zoom in on Nike’s distinct, neon shoes featuring the infamous swoosh.

Media:

Yet, Nike’s greatest advantage comes from its creative prowess in social media. Nike’s work has led many to believe that they are an official, if not THE official World Cup sponsor. Nike sponsors many of the elite teams and athletes, utilizing superstars like Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Christiano Ronaldo, and Neymar Jr. in their iconic, engaging commercials that run more like music videos or movies. Their World Cup campaigns take huge amounts of preparation and creativity, providing a branded experience unrivaled by Adidas, or any other sponsor for that matter.

Nike’s large World Cup marketing budget has resulted in a staggering 372 million as of today, and while it is difficult to measure the effort in terms of revenue, their brand image has certainly benefited. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who looks forward to their work every four years, suddenly feeling motivated to begin juggling a soccer ball wherever I go.

An example of one of Nike’s latest films from its “Risk Everything” campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_1881407941&feature=iv&src_vid=iaVtinE8oO8&v=mTzMgkwtfiI

                                                                                    

Nike has proven yet again that you don’t need to shell out the big bucks to reap the benefits of sponsorship recognition; that ambush advertising can be just as effective, if not more so, than official sponsorship. In doing so, it has successfully established its position on the largest stage as the global brand leader of soccer (or football) gear.