Is the age of expensive brand sponsorship coming to an end? The World Cup starts today and the brands getting the most brandlift from the events are not the ones who signed expensive sponsorship contracts.

It's Pepsi and Nike who have achieved the most World Cup buzz so far. But Adidas and Coke are the ones forking over for sponsorships. In today's world of the digital brand ambush, it's getting harder to make the case for official sponsorships.

If you'll remember The Olympics this winter, brands that were not official sponsors were banned from cheering on their own celebrity spokespeople or using imagery that implied a relationship with the Olympics. But you can't stop people from sharing information online. And with the runaway popularity of the World Cup, brands are taking advantage of the captive audiences.

Nike's "Write the Future" video stars well-known soccer players like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo interacting with personalities like NBA player Kobe Bryant and Homer Simpson. Over two weeks, the video has achieved almost 15 million views.

Meanwhile, Pepsi's "Oh Africa" video has been racking up hits as well.

World Cup sponsors have been launching online video as well. But the official partnership doesn't guarantee traction online.

Adidas only launched its World Cup video on June 5, and achieved less brand equity than Nike — about 3 million views. Almost 1/3 of the online buzz around the World Cup in the month running up to the tournament was focused on Nike according to Nielsen. That's twice as high as the buzz for Adidas.

Nike was the most talked about brand in relation to the World Cup, getting mentioned in 30.2% of the English messages tracked online by Nielsen from May 7 to June 6.  Adidas came in second at 14.4%.

The World Cup is the world's most popular sporting event. Today some 11 million visitor requests are being sent to Akamai's News Index per minute, up 233% from the normal demand at this time.

According to EIG, The World Cup will generate $1.6 billion in sponsorship revenue from the 2007 to 2010. But policing brand activity during a worldwide tournament is not easy. For instance, nine of the 32 World Cup soccer teams are wearing Nike equipment, compared to 12 wearing Adidas.

For brands looking to gain traction during major sporting events, the game is changing. Traditional sponsorships may not be completely dead, but brands can no longer sit back and expect simple monetary expenditure to pay off online. Especially when comparing Nike and Adidas here, it becomes clear that companies have to make sure they are first and innovative online, regardless of their official partner status.

Meghan Keane

Published 11 June, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (4)



Thanks for the post.Nike just has to be there when it is Soccer.They never miss out on Soccer.Ofiicial sponsors has to back up.The competion is getting tougher by the day and therefore sponsorers has to go for a no holds barred ad campaign if they have to survive.Also innovative methods has to be tried out in order to attract attention of potential clients.

about 8 years ago


John Koblinsky, Market Researcher at MetLife

We see this phenomena in American football too.  Everyone thinks budwieser is the offical sponsor and it's Miller/Coors.  Event organizers need to offer more exclusive content to sponsors if they want to sweeten the deal.  But really it's the sponsors that are dropping the ball in developing more engaging advertising around the event they sponsor.

about 8 years ago


Milly Diaz

The brands didn't do a good job of optimising their association with the World Cup in the lead up to the big event.  The company I work for, Tamar, did a bit of research earlier this year that makes this point.  The big brands have scored an 'own goal' by waiting til the last minute to associate themselves with the brands online. You can read our report here:  In a nutshell, we found that five of the World Cup's major sponsors *failed* to associate their brands online with the World Cup competition.

about 8 years ago



This just goes to show how compelling content always wins with the infinite distribution that is youtube.  Nike has always been the masters as creating viral content.  From the Nike Freestyle commercials (song made from dribbling a basketball) to this video, they will continue to steamroll over Adidas who's impossible is nothing campaign was "nothing" on the internet.

Go England!

about 8 years ago

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