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McClatchy-Tribune  07/05/2014 11:18 PM ET
Nike, Adidas shine light on their stars during World Cup [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. :: ]

July 05--Adidas is the official FIFA World Cup clothing and ball sponsor. Only Adidas has been able to use the words "World Cup" in its ads. Only Adidas has had its brand logo and slogan flashed across Brazil stadium signs. Only Adidas has had its ball, the Brazuca, kicked around the pitch during games.

Nike, though, didn't decide to sit this one out. It sought to put its shoes on the feet of some of the world's biggest soccer stars, regardless of what corporate logo appears on the jerseys of their home countries. Adidas also has its share of footwear-endorsing athletes, but its marketing of individuals has largely been limited to a single player.

Nike spent about $3 billion in its most recent fiscal year for "demand creation expense" -- the category that covers ad spending, marketing and athlete endorsements. That was about 10 percent more than last year. In the fourth quarter alone, the period covering the runup to the World Cup, Nike spend $876 million on marketing expenses, more than 35 percent over the same three-month period last year.

Neither Nike nor Adidas will say how much it is spending on World Cup marketing, nor do they reveal the value of their athlete partnership agreements. But Don Blair, chief financial officer for Nike, underscored how this year, a World Cup year, is unlike others during a recent conference call with stock analysts.

"Demand creation investments behind the World Cup," accounted for increased spending in the company's fourth quarter, Blair said in reviewing fourth quarter results. And that kind of spending, he said, is expected to be 30 percent higher in the current quarter compared to the same quarter last year "as we continue to leverage the energy of the World Cup."

Nike introduced its elite eight soccer players through the animated video, "Last Game," which debuted in early June.

Franck Ribery, winger, France, plays professionally for Bayern Munich: He has not participated in this World Cup as he has been sidelined with a back injury.

Tim Howard, goalie, United States, plays professionally for Everton: By the time overtime had ended in the U.S.' 2-1 loss to Belgium, Howard was being nominated for president, his visage was added to Mount Rushmore and his photograph had replaced the actual United States secretary of defense on a Wikipedia page.

Andres Iniesta, midfielder, Spain, plays professionally for Barcelona: Spain, the defending 2010 World Cup champions were bounced after the first round. Iniesta, who scored the lone goal in Spain's 1-0 2010 World Cup championship victory over The Netherlands, did not score this year.

Cristiano Ronaldo, forward, Portugal, plays professionally for Real Madrid: He is Nike's marquee soccer player though he has competition for the spotlight from others. He did not have a lengthy stay on this year's world stage, however, and left with one goal.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, forward, Sweden, plays professionally for Paris-St. Germain: When Ibrahimovic's Sweden failed to qualify for the World Cup (done in by Ronaldo's hat trick in a deciding game), Nike and its advertising agency, turned a lemon into a lemonade with the engaging Ibrahhimovic. In addition to his starring role in The Last Game, he appeared in a separate animated, comedic feature, offering his views on life.

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., winger/forward, Brazil, plays professionally for Barcelona: Neymar had four goals even before Friday's quarterfinal game against Colombia, trailing only James Rodriguez of Colombia, who had five.

Wayne Rooney, forward, England, plays professionally for Manchester United: Unfortunately for Rooney, England and Nike, his team did not make it to the World Cup knockout round.

David Luiz, defender, Brazil, plays professionally for Paris-St. Germain: His presence in Nike's star lineup is especially important as he plays for the host Brazil, a vitally important country to Nike's global growth, as well as a country Nike has sponsored for nearly 20 years.

Adidas has focused its marketing efforts on one player: Lionel "Leo" Messi, the forward on Argentina who plays professionally for Barcelona. He has his own cleat -- the F50 Messi -- and Adidas has introduced a line of Messi apparel. Company officials often refer to Messi as "the world's greatest soccer player," a title Ronaldo's backers would dispute.

Adidas has had plenty of other players in their cleats. Some for good, such as James (pronounced "Hah-mez") Rodriguez of Colombia, who, after scoring in Friday's 2-1 loss to Brazil, led all players with six goals.

And some for not so good, such as Luis Suarez of Uruguay. Adidas was forced to remove Suarez from its advertising plans and publicly admonish him after he generated headlines worldwide by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during a group stage match.

Adidas has had the welcome dilemma of what to do with Rodriguez, a breakout star of the tournament who many had not anticipated would dominate goal scoring to this point. Thus far, Adidas' marketing push for Rodriguez has focused on social media, though the company said it has seen an uptick in sales of Colombia jerseys. Adidas outfits the Colombia team.

Adidas also points to German forward Thomas Muller, who plays professionally for Bayern Munich, as one if its marquee sponsored players.

-- Allan Brettman

 

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