World Cup Battle

When the World Cup began in mid-June, we launched an initiative to measure the World Cup social media marketing activities of some of the world’s biggest brands to see what kind of engagement they received from their efforts. We were particularly interested in comparing the activities of World Cup sponsors versus their competitors who were not sponsors.

When watching a World Cup match, it becomes quickly obvious who the sponsors of the tournament are, as the names of a handful of big global brands – adidas, Coca Cola, Visa, to name a few – are displayed around the pitch. These brands paid a lot of money to get one of the coveted spots (there are only six FIFA Partners and eight FIFA World Cup Sponsors). They obviously receive a lot of exposure during the televised matches but we wondered if the value of being a sponsor also extended to the social media marketing battleground.

Throughout our initiative, we noticed that, in most cases, sponsors were aggressive in promoting their World Cup presence in social media channels, while their competitors (non-sponsors) were not. This was not the case, however, when it came to adidas (a FIFA Partner) and Nike (not a sponsor). Both brands were very aggressive in social media networks during the World Cup. This is not surprising since they both had a lot to gain by winning over the mindshare of the World Cup audience, as they try to increase the revenues for the soccer/football segment of their business. What was particularly interesting were the different approaches each brand took…

Nike got off to a strong start, thanks to a video that went viral

Throughout the World Cup, Nike was less active (i.e., making more posts) than adidas on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube but during the first couple weeks of the World Cup, they experienced more user engagement. Specifically:

  • Nike received greater than 6 times more Likes on Facebook than adidas.
  • Nike got more than 2 times more Favorites on Twitter than adidas.
  • Nike had 2.5 times more Views, 7 times more Comments, and greater than 10 times more Likes on YouTube, when compared to adidas.

So why did Nike have this early success? While we feel that some of the engagement might have been the result of sponsored posts (we don’t have data to firmly substantiate this), the primary factor was an extremely effective video Nike produced.

Nike hit it out-of-the park with their Last Game video. The video was released right before the start of the World Cup and as of this writing, it has over 64 million views. The Last Game video was heavily promoted on Nike’s social channels – and in television ads – particularly during the first half of the World Cup and the social posts that featured the video experienced more engagement than other posts. adidas did have one video – The Dream – that did well with over 38 million views.

adidas was consistent throughout the World Cup, thanks to persistent activity

Throughout the World Cup, adidas invested more continuous and persistent effort in the social media channels, when compared to Nike. This was an explicit strategy they were well prepared for. Specifically, over the last couple weeks of the World Cup:

  • adidas published more than 2 times more Facebook posts, 3 times more Twitter tweets, and 1.5 times more YouTube videos than Nike.
  • adidas received 3 times more Views and Likes on YouTube, compared to Nike.
  • adidas experienced 2.4 times more Retweets on Twitter than Nike.

So what does this all mean?

We think that both Nike and adidas probably view their World Cup social media marketing campaigns as successes. Nike needed an initial big splash to overcome the sponsorship advantage owned by adidas and they got that, thanks to their Last Game video. adidas knew they would receive sponsorship exposure throughout the World Cup and they leveraged that with a very steady social media game plan. This visualization of YouTube Views during the World Cup period is a good illustration of what happened…

 World Cup Final Analysis


Beyond the World Cup, we think that the adidas/Nike battle provides some valuable lessons for marketers:

  • Sponsorships are not a huge advantage in social media. Competitors of many of the other sponsors of the World Cup barely put up a fight in the social media channels. Nike showed that social media is a battleground that doesn’t give a sponsor a huge advantage.
  • Creativity still matters. The Don Drapers of the world can rest easy. Despite all of the talk about data geeks taking over marketing, the early social engagement success during the World Cup that Nike experienced was the result of their very creative Last Game video.
  • Effective videos drive social engagement. On Facebook and Twitter, the messages with the highest engagement were the ones with a video element, followed by messages with a static image. Messages with just text were the least effective from a social engagement perspective.
  • Persistence makes a difference. Social is about being there in the moment so there is value in being persistent and delivering relevant content on a consistent basis throughout a high profile event, like the World Cup. adidas was prepared for that and reaped the benefits of taking such an approach.

Throughout the World Cup, we had fun not only watching the exciting matches on the pitch, but seeing adidas and Nike duke it out in the social media channels. We can’t wait for the next World Cup in four years!


Want to see how the Origami Logic Marketing Intelligence Platform was used to measure the global campaign of a World Cup sponsor?

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