July 1st, 2010
09:49 AM ET

Nike's World Cup tactics smarter than any 'ambush'

Nike's colorful new boots have been conspicuous at the World Cup in South Africa. (AFP/Getty)
Nike's colorful new boots have been conspicuous at the World Cup in South Africa. (AFP/Getty)

London, England (CNN) – With the sheer number of Nike ticks seen on the clothes and the shoes of the footballers, you could be forgiven for thinking the American sportswear giant is an official corporate sponsor of this year’s World Cup in South Africa.

Of course, it’s Adidas and the famed three stripes that are supposed to catch the eye. It’s the German company's ball that's being used for all matches, and its name that appears on the boarding, along with some of the kits of teams such as Spain, Germany, France and Argentina (spare a thought for Nike-owned Umbro, which supplies England).

But, oh those bright orange and silver Nike Elite series of boots that so many players are wearing! It can be no coincidence that Nike’s latest shoe is so easy to see from far away. Many of those players wearing Adidas clothes are wearing Nike Elite. It worked. I noticed.

Don’t call it ambush marketing, though. This is a far cry from placing beautiful models wearing orange-colored clothes in the stands to promote a Dutch beer brand that is not a sponsor.

Nike is simply fulfilling a right to sign any player or team to a kit contract. Players have the right to wear what they want when it comes to critical equipment, like boots and baseball gloves, no matter who is the event's sponsor.

And you can’t blame Nike for people referring to its pre-tournament TV commercial (which is called "Write the Future") as  “Nike’s new World Cup ad.” Though, as an aside, it's worth noting that all the players featured in it have already been knocked out of the tournament.

What Nike cannot do is link itself to the World Cup. Go to its website and you would never know that the most important sporting event in the world is taking place.

This is not a mild issue, of course. In order for big events to sign big-time sponsors, governments have to pass laws and make ambush marketing illegal (read South Africa’s law here).

That is why South African prosecutors could have filed criminal charges against the two Dutch women accused of being behind the beer stunt. The matter was dropped by soccer's governing body FIFA, though, after the beer company agreed to not do it again while Budweiser is the official beer of the tournament through 2022.

Then there are the "exclusion zones" around the stadiums where only official merchandise and drinks can be sold. Brands spend millions of dollars for the right not to have to compete with rivals who have not paid.

I was in Turin for the 2006 Winter Olympics, and people there had to be be reminded that Italy had passed such a law and that it was illegal to profit from the Olympics if you had not paid up first.

I also overheard Coca-Cola people making sure athletes did not bring the "wrong" water to press conferences, as they indicated had happened in the past.

Nike hasn’t had to worry about these things. It just had to make sure its players where brightly-colored shoes. Though at $400 a pair, I will not be buying them.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Harry180

    WHAT?!?!? NIke world cup has become a flop!! more column inches to it cursed advert. More goals scored in adidas footwear and more teams in 3 strips through.

    Nike has 5 boot to adidas 3's and adidas has more goal!!

    Nike has more play paid to wear their boot then adidas and still behind in goals.

    The simple adidas yellow and black boots show class compared to sporting billboards technicolor nike boots.

    1st their write the future ad was highlights of achievements adidas wearing football players.

    Cristiano Ronaldo is immortalized on a statue in front of the nations fans in the nike ad. But alas this first happened to Zinedine Zidane in 1998 when France won the world cup. Zidane's image was projected onto the Arc de Triomphe and the French public called for him to be made president.

    Do’h!!! or rather adidas star Zidane was also referenced in a real episode of The Simpson too and come to think of he also was in a Family Guy episode too. All down to the Zidane head butt going viral on the Internet after the 2006 world cup. Going viral that’s in the nike ad too, but its already happened to an adidas star.

    What else?? Oh there Cristiano Ronaldo life story becoming a Hollywood movie. D’oh again! This was an adidas star first too. Any one seen the movie Zidane a 21st century portrait? No? or how about The Clint Eastwood moive Invictus? Where Matt Damon plays South African rugby star François Pienaar. Yep Francois rocked adidas and won the world cup in rugby at the sametime… You must of seen this film of an adidas wearing player Bend it like Beckham!!!

    Oh and everything that happens to Wayne Rooney in the nike ad all happened to David Beckham. The good and the bad in the tabloid press and the honor by the queen.

    Not to mention the curse of nike has hit many of the nike players that featured in the ad. What class!!

    July 2, 2010 at 1:10 am | Reply
  2. Edward

    Bavaria paid perhaps $100k total to get 10-15 pretty girls to travel to SA. This includes fines and compensation for their prison time. In return they got the attention from all media (even CNN) for a couple of days in a row, and in Holland the term 'Bavaria Babe' has become part of culture.

    How much did Nike pay to sponsor these players? I have no solid estimate but it must be millions. What did they get in return? Most World Cup viewers probably couldn't tell you which sponsor their national team has and which brand of shoes their favorite player wears.

    The strength of ambush (or guerilla) marketing is that you get a lot of publicity for a small budget. Ask Nike (or Adidas) what the ROI of their world cup was.

    July 2, 2010 at 10:14 am | Reply
  3. Joel

    Here's a better one....Look at the actual facts. Nike is STILL the worlds undefeated supplier of Sporting Goods. Nike has always had and will continue to have the highest sales. That's because Adidas is European and in Europe the biggest sport they have is Football, where as in the USA we have much more sports that are equally big and important to us. So football teams is adidas' biggest cllients while Nike has many other sports and athletes to sponsor!
    At the end of the day it's Nike who still claims the undisputed title as the king of sports wear.

    Who cares if this Bavarian brewery made a quick, cheap publicity stunt...Just shows you how cheap they are. The only thing cheap, publicity gets you is 15 minutes of fame then it's like, where are they now?
    Oh and Budweiser (American) is still the beer of the world cup until 2022....Hahahaha....Eat that you haters from Europe, Fake Americans!!!

    July 2, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  4. James

    Everybody knows NIKE makes better everything, shoes, balls, sportswear, etc. Adidas will always be second string to Nike's dominance!!!

    July 2, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  5. ronnie

    speaking of sponsors.....did anyone notice that the uruguay players are now wearing "PUMA" as supposed to "ADDIDAS" which they wore during their previous matches? did they suddenly decided to get new sponsor?

    July 2, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  6. mircea666

    nike = BABANA CO.

    July 3, 2010 at 9:27 am | Reply
  7. Clubwww1

    Nike have at last recognized that to be successful in anything you must be present in everything. The body, the mind and the soul must be as one. Nothing is as it seems but is always as it appears. Nike can tick the box for this one!

    July 4, 2010 at 5:28 am | Reply
  8. Brenden

    To: Harry180

    If you have a son or daughter and they play soccer, ask them what soccer footware they want....

    8 out of 10 will say, "the orange footware that Ronaldo wears on TV"

    Job done....

    July 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  9. rhea

    Nike is dfa worlds best product.nothing like it.da person who is up-to-date and who uses nike product will always be successful in life luv it.

    July 5, 2010 at 6:04 am | Reply
  10. vaish

    hey rhea yur right ,nike is da best

    July 5, 2010 at 6:10 am | Reply
  11. vaish

    nike is the world ,we r da children

    July 5, 2010 at 6:14 am | Reply
  12. Ahmed

    same goes for the Coca-Cola vs Pepsi..
    Pepsi aren't sponsors, yet they created a huge football campaign with many of the star players, the likes of Kaka, Messi, Lampard, Drogba, Torres and Ballack..Such a campaign overshadowed that of sponsoring company Coca-Cola..there are certain market approaches that are good enough and ethical for the sake of the competition, not always ambush marketing..

    July 6, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  13. Robert

    I wonder why a small countrie never wins the world cup. Does Nike want to invest merchanedise in a country with just 16 miljoen people? I must be mistaken, i dont think the world is such a incorrputed place, mabye Spain was just better....

    July 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Reply
  14. Joe

    @Joel – right on brother. I'm from the Beaver state, long live Nike, best fitting shoe I've every owned and I use their soccer, running, aqua, hiking, mtn biking, windsurfing, and casual shoes. Tried a Adddidas and it felt like a tooth extraction, blindfolded, sitting in a chair with my hands tied behind my back ;-)

    July 12, 2010 at 1:58 am | Reply
  15. Sydney Collins

    sometimes the fit on my baseball glove is not very good ~"

    August 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Reply
  16. mbtshoes

    Good indeed!! Thank you for sharing.

    September 20, 2010 at 8:09 am | Reply
  17. Anna Allen

    my baseball glove really fits well on my small hands, i don't know what brand is it`""

    September 30, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  18. Cordless Screwdriver ·

    the fit of the baseball glove is always critical to get a good a pitch `

    November 7, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Reply
  19. carpinteyrosbw

    Kid's Existence, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Construct an overview

    June 9, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply

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