Here’s the setup: Adidas states very publicly that they want to own the World Cup – an event that attracts an audience bigger than the Olympics or the Superbowl. They outbid everyone else to become official sponsor. And wary of ambush by their arch-enemy (and one of the great television advertisers of all time) they lock out Nike ads in all 64 televised games.
Then Adidas opens the mass marketing floodgates: Estimates say Adidas World Cup spending will total well over $200 million.
So Nike, shut out of its traditional strength, goes new media – but in the same epic, outrageous, courageous way we’ve watched them do mass media for years. The core of the idea, as always, is brilliantly simple: Joga Bonito..Play Beautiful.
Nike builds content around the Brazillian team that not only is among the elite in every World Cup competition but is also incredibly popular worldwide for the grace and sheer joy of their play. They create a broadband TV channel called jogaTV; they release viral videos, including Brazillian ping pong, that get viewed millions of times all over the web; they allow users to upload themselves passing a soccer ball to enthusiastic peers all over the world in a “soccer chain”.
And at the core of the campaign is a social media experience, launched in partnership with a little company called Google. Joga.com is Nike’s social media site for football fans, launched about 3 months ago across 140 countries and in 14 languages. Recently it’s soared in popularity, and is now the 961st most popular site in the world, according to Alexa.
In fact, over the past couple of weeks, Joga.com has at times gotten almost twice as many visitors as Adidas.com.
Stop and read that last sentence again, slowly.
Adidas will outspend Nike 2 to 1 during this World Cup. Adidas has played textbook mass marketing domination — buying up exclusive rights to all the traditional channels for distributing media impressions to this audience. Their name is even on the ball.
Nike went another direction, building a community around an appreciation for the poetry of the game, paying nothing for sponsorship, and to a large extent, creating it’s own media.
Adidas may yet be redeemed. But if this plays out that Nike outmaneuvered Adidas, the 2006 World Cup will be remembered as the cleanest “old marketing” vs. “new marketing” case study we’ve seen yet.