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Have adidas given up on trying to win the marketing game with Nike or is it cold, hard strategy?  It’s probably neither – just one brand using everything it can to stand up to the world’s most fearsome marketing machine.


Spot the difference between these two soccer world cup activation campaigns;

Nike's world cup activation



None!  At least from a campaign idea persective, there is no difference between what both Nike & adidas did to push their brands.

This has happened before – in fact, until pretty recently the adidas marketing campaign strategy seemed to be ‘follow Nike’.

Spot the difference;





Again from an idea point of view there is effectively no difference between ‘Just do it’ and ‘Impossible is nothing’.


While both brand have distinct, differentiated and well articulated brand equity strategies – this has not been evident in their campaigns.

Nike & adidas equity strategies

At lease not until a few years ago when adidas came up with the frankly genius  ‘all -in’  (now pay attention – not ‘all in or nothing’ but ‘all in’ similar set of words but a world appart from an idea point of view).

See this from the agency, Sid Lee: “adidas needed to reconnect with its target, next-generation youth looking for fun, self-expression, and recognition. We discovered a fundamental truth: no matter what they do, they go all in.  http://sidlee.com/en/work/Adidas/All%20In“, ‘For the love of the game, no matter the game, we put our hearts into it’. 

With the ‘all in’ campaign adidas had found – after years of searching and numerious agencies – a distinct, differentiated and compelling way to articulate their brand while capturing the adidas version of the essence of sport.

So what does the world cup campaign mean?  Have adidas chickened out?  Was it a once-off for a tournament that they felt they could own? … WHY?


Maybe there is an alternative view – a cold & decisive pure strategy move.  Maybe adidas have realised that they cannot win Vs the Nike marketing machine and moved to neutralise Nike’s strength by copying it.  Once no one could tell the difference between the two brands campaigns adidas could seek to win elsewhere …. on marketing spend.

There is some evidence to support the idea that adidas have chosen this route.  With operating margins at practically half of Nike’s (7% Vs 13%) and the recent willingness to spend 3 times the previous (Nike) deal to be Manchester United’s kit sponsor  [http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28282444].

All in for all in?

So, good strategy in a bad situation or just not the bottle to stay the course?  I hope it’s not a return to copying Nike but a temporary blip during the bigest event in what adidas consider their heartland – the soccer world cup.  I hope that now that the event is over we see a return to differentiation and to two distinct brands at the top of sport – a return to ‘all in’.

This campaign took years to crack and can work, just give it time to breath!  In fact, go all in for it! (sorry, can’t resist).