Bloomberg — When the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar this weekend, 13 of the 32 participating countries will be playing in jerseys provided by Nike Inc., the most by any sportswear sponsor at this year’s tournament.
This year, Germany-based Adidas AG will outfit only seven nations. This is only the third time Oregon-based Nike has outperformed Adidas, and the biggest gap Nike has ever held over its longtime rival.
Countries with Nike deals include the host nation and the United States, as well as powerhouse teams like Brazil, England and France. Nike’s popularity comes at the expense of Adidas, which, at the peak of its dominance, outfitted nearly two-thirds of teams at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Kit licensing deals are essential for sportswear companies in their quest to take a bite of the $30 billion global licensed sports merchandise market. For decades, Adidas had been the primary name on World Cup kits. The company sponsored nine of the 16 teams at the 1974 FIFA World Cup in Germany and continued their dominance until recently. Nike — a relative late-comer to soccer-kit sponsorships — first entered the World Cup fray in 1998 when it sponsored five teams competing in France, and has steadily grown its market share.
An Adidas spokesperson, however, said their company benefits from the prestige of the teams playing in three stripes-embossed jerseys.
“It is not only about quantity but also quality,” said Stefan Pursche, an Adidas spokesperson. “We equip four teams among the top favorites for the title; Argentina, Spain, Belgium, and Germany.”
Six of the seven nations playing in Adidas’s kits are ranked among the world’s top-20 teams, according to rankings created by FIFA. Nike also sponsors top-ranked teams — seven nations it equips are among the top-20 — but it is also tied to lower-ranked teams like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who both rank among the worst teams competing this year. Nike does however have one big advantage, Brazil — which has won the most World Cup titles and is favored by oddsmakers to win again this year — will be wearing the swoosh.
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