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Adidas looks to the World Cup stage

December 3, 2013 - 8:54am

PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s looking quite festive these days at Adidas’ North American headquarters, and it has nothing to do with the holiday season.

Brightly colored cleats are on posters, in displays and even just strewn about. The neon shoes are part of the German shoemaker’s Samba collection released recently in advance of next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

Adidas is on an all-out marketing blitz with the crowning jewel — the World Cup match ball — to be unveiled on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro. An official sponsor of the World Cup and partner with soccer’s international governing body, the company has designed the ball for each one of the tournaments since 1970.

The spirits around Adidas are as bright as their shoes. After all, the company only gets this kind of chance to promote its brand every four years.

“No one knows soccer like Adidas,” said Ernesto Bruce, the company’s director of soccer.

Adidas trails behind global leader Nike in overall sales of shoes and athletic apparel. However, Adidas has traditionally led when it comes to the soccer market and this year is expected to have record sales of about $2.1 billion. The company estimates that number will jump to $2.8 billion next year.

The last time there was a World Cup, in 2010, Adidas saw its soccer business jump 14 percent.

Nike, which entered the market in 1994, had soccer-related sales of $1.9 billion last year, putting the company right on Adidas’ heels. Nike quickly increased its profile by sponsoring the kits for such teams as FC Barcelona and Manchester United. Last month the Beaverton, Ore., company revealed the World Cup kits for the hometown Brazilian team.

Adidas founder Adi Dassler made the company’s first pair of soccer cleats in 1925 in Herzogenaurach, Germany. As legend has it, Dassler helped West Germany beat the mighty Hungarians in the 1954 World Cup because of shoes he designed with screw-in studs that aided traction on the rain-slicked pitch.

In the lead-in to the World Cup, Adidas introduced four Samba soccer boots, the blue Adizero F50, the berry-colored Predator, the “slime” green Nitrocharge and the purple 11Pro. The colors were chosen to pay tribute to Carnival.

The company also updated the kits for many of its national teams, including Spain, Argentina, Germany and Columbia.

But the ball is what brings the most buzz. Designers have been sworn to secrecy and those who have been allowed to see the ball had to sign a confidentiality agreement.

A contest was held in Brazil to name the ball, and the Brazuca — an informal word often used to describe national pride in the South American nation — was born, beating out fellow finalists Bossa Nova and Carnavalesca.

The 2010 World Cup match ball was called Jubulani and was made of eight thermally bonded panels. Adidas sold 13 million of them.

To mark the introduction of the Brazuca — which will have its own Twitter account — Adidas says that parents of every baby born in Brazil on Tuesday will be entitled to receive a ball next Friday and Saturday at specific locations in all 12 host cities. They will need to present the child’s birth certificate as proof.

Adidas and FIFA recently agreed to extend the company’s agreement to make the ball to 2030. The value was not disclosed, though FIFA top-tier sponsorships are currently estimated at about $100 million per four-year World Cup cycle.

“Adidas was built on soccer,” said Antonio Zea, the company’s innovation director for soccer. “It’s part of our DNA.”

Pele to appear at draw; role kept secret

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil — Pele is to appear at Friday’s draw for the 2014 World Cup, but his role is being kept secret.

It hadn’t been clear whether Pele would be participating. On Monday, however, organizers confirmed the soccer great will be part of the broadcast to about 250 million viewers in more than 190 countries.

“He will be the ‘wow’ moment of the show,” said Luiz Gleiser, the event’s artistic manager.

Head of FIFA Films David Ausseil said Pele will “come to the stage” at some point. Beyond that it’s not certain what he will do.

“We will keep that as the surprise,” Ausseil said.

Pele is a World Cup ambassador for the Brazilian government, but he was not involved in the Confederations Cup draw a year ago and surprisingly didn’t appear at the opening match of the World Cup warmup tournament. He has made only a few appearances promoting the World Cup, the first in Brazil since 1950.

By wire sources

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