Adidas looks to the World Cup stage

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 Colombia.

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.”