Nike, Adidas, and the science of football marketing

It’s intriguing to observe the way a brand markets itself, especially in a competitive environment like football. In today’s world, betting companies, apparel companies, football clubs themselves, and more are attracting audiences in increasingly impressive ways. But, you cannot look further than sportswear giants Nike as the biggest – nay, the best – example of how to market effectively.

Simply put, Nike is one of the best of all time; a behemoth within the sports industry, a creative genius. Their ‘Just Do It’ marketing campaign is iconic, and has cemented them as one of the biggest companies ever. It’s a delight to study and analyse what Nike do when marketing their products because, most of the time, it’s very good.

You see, they sell aspirations. They focus their campaigns on what you can achieve and can become, rather than solely focusing on the product itself; they tap into the emotions of their audience, because it allows the audience to believe. If you wear Nike, you can do this. That is what they have been telling us for years, and continue to do so in very creative ways.

Using culture as a focal point in their campaigns also allows Nike to truly connect with their audience. See their Nigeria kit release. See the ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ advert below. When creating an advert, Nike places culture at the forefront of its thinking – may it be the notion of home and identity, street football and skills, or good and evil – making their message as effective as possible for the audience.

It also helps that they’re able to do all of this using some fantastic visuals. Nike have created spectacular productions featuring some of the best athletes in the world, which are talked about for years – especially their World Cup editions.

The results of all of this are clear to see.

But despite all of this, within football right now, people could argue that they’re not the top dog. Why? Because of a little German brand called adidas. Now, I am not saying that adidas are at the same level as Nike on a global scale, because that would be a lie. But within football, adidas are doing some very cool things, and this cannot be ignored.

Like Nike, adidas focus on star power, but there is more of a focus on the specific benefits of their products. Their social media posts videos surrounding their four silos, each talking about how their products can you unlock a certain physical trait, eg. passing ability or running speed. Nike’s product promotion is more subtle – Nike’s marketing over the years has been predominantly focused on aspiration rather than the products themselves – whereas adidas are directly using their products to sell belief. Wear specifically this, and you’ll be harder, better, faster, stronger.

Alongside this, the branch Tango Squad gives adidas another channel to market themselves. Seeing players that aren’t professional, live life as though they were, travelling the world playing the game, brings the game closer to the consumer, especially with events inviting the audience to participate. This is a genuinely interesting angle of the adidas brand.

Of course, Nike have already gone down this road with The Chance and Nike Academy, which were similar to Tango Squad. Aspiring players would come to trials for an opportunity to join the Academy, leading to a chance to play against some of the best club academies in the world. These were a success, driving talk across football media, and with the Tango Squad, we see something similar. Each episode has been fantastic to watch, and the Tango League events look incredibly cool.

Nike have since ditched The Chance and Nike Academy, leaving adidas to fly this particular flag alone – but the Germans do this differently. Nike seemed to be all about development on the pitch, focusing on the performance of their players. It’s a larger thing with adidas. They look into the creative aspect of the game with their events surrounding Tango, allowing people to create cool things through the Tango brand. They focus more on the culture of the game, and, through their focus on lifestyle, gear, and more, they focus on the things off the pitch as well as on it.

adidas take an even further step in this respect by collaborating with brands who are standing for key issues outside of football; such as Parley, a brand that teams up with ‘creators, thinkers and leaders’ to fight against the destruction of the oceans and the planet’s eco-system – a current issue very much in the public eye. Collaborations such as these allow adidas to convey a positive brand message. It shows that they are trying to fulfil their corporate social responsibility, which, ultimately, will boost their brand image massively.

Nike is feeding aspiration and identity with their products, while adidas are feeding social responsibility and awareness through their collaboration with Parley. It’s two different approaches with both being effective.

What makes good marketing is the brand’s connection with the audience – the way a brand considers the audience’s values and interests in order to create a solid relationship between the two. Adidas is doing this well, achieving success by communicating efficiently through social media, adverts, and partnerships. The Parley collaboration is an admirable move from the brand, because it gives them such a positive brand image, while projects like the Tango Squad create a more direct connection.

Nike, however, remains ahead, connecting with people in an unmatched way, and that is why they win this battle. Their approach is better at connecting with the audience because it sells aspirations and allows people to believe that they can achieve something special themselves. They don’t focus on what their products do or offer, but talk about how wearing Nike can help you – yes, you – achieve all these feats within sport. Nike has been doing this for years – and it works.

Football as a sub-culture is booming, with a lot of creativity and expression being released through it. Brands like Nike and adidas are realising its potental, making it a wonderful time to be involved in football.

1 Comment

  • Boost is good but it does bottom out if that”s your only shoe you ball in everyday. I”ve notice most people who wear boost are the big boys or old folks. Seems like adidas want to use boost here and there. Since a lot of them love Nike shoes (hyperdunk, kobes, lebron and paul). Harden and Lillard are really the face of adidas and the others are third. Also a lot of shoe companies are coming hard this basketball sesson so adidas is probably trying to stay in the mix.

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