2014 FIFA World Cup: Has Adidas missed the goal of branding?

2014 FIFA World Cup: Has Adidas missed the goal of branding?

Has Adidas’ FIFA 2014 campaign ‘All In Or Nothing’ missed the mark? Pippi Redden and James Martin from Ehrenberg-Bass Institute investigate

All eyes are on Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where official FIFA partner and sports giant Adidas is one of many brands using the opportunity for global exposure. However the highjacking attempts have already started, as rival giant Nike demonstrated by launching their initial FIFA World Cup advertisement over one month earlier than Adidas, beating them to the punch. With little difference in creative content between the rivals’ advertisements, Adidas is left exposed to being hijacked by Nike on the world stage.

On May 24, Adidas marked the start of their ‘All In Or Nothing’ 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign, with the official video advertisement titled ‘Leo Messi’s World Cup Dream’. Adidas Global Marketing Brand Director Tom Ramsden commented:

“We are incredibly proud of this film and the entire ‘all in or nothing’ campaign. By bringing together the creative powers of Fernando (Meirelles), Cassiano (Prado) and Kanye; and combining them with the best players in the world, we present a unique, fresh and authentic view of the World Cup that only Adidas can deliver.”

While the creative content of the film should be applauded, the problem with Adidas’ video content is that Nike took the same approach on April 1. Their film starring Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. and Wayne Rooney, similarly featured high profile players under pressure and in preparation for the major event. This similarity in creative content leaves the task of effective branding resting on the distinctive elements of each brand; the Nike ‘swoosh’ and Adidas’ ‘three-stripes’.

Research from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute shows that advertising avoidance is widespread. Studies show that 1/3 of viewers actively avoid advertising, 1/3 passively avoid it and only 1/3 actually watch the content. Active avoiders remove themselves from the room or change the channel, while passive avoiders remain in the environment but only give the advertisement their partial attention. This ‘rule of thirds’ means that if a brand is not instantly recognisable, it can be misattributed to competitors, as most viewers do not actually watch advertisements. They tend to engage in other activities, such as making a cup of coffee or surfing the Internet. Marketing Science shows us that to cut-through and get noticed, distinct branding is of paramount importance.

Adidas has positively leveraged its history of FIFA World Cup sponsorship in the creation of the ‘All In Or Nothing’ campaign, but assumes that viewers are innately familiar with their brand. Adidas has relied on its long association with the three-stripe pattern in this video, however the pattern and brand name do not appear prominently together on-screen until the end of the advertisement. By this time, both passive and active avoiders (two thirds of the audience) are not paying attention to the content and could easily have misattributed the video to Nike or FIFA. Nike has higher mental availability in consumer’s minds, making Adidas less likely to be instantly recognised.

To be considered a distinctive brand asset, the branded element must be widely known and not associated with other brands. For Adidas, their ‘three-stripes’ must evoke the brand name without prompting for close to 100% of consumers. Compared to the Nike ‘swoosh’, the Adidas three-stripe has a way to go in terms of recognition. Adidas must invest in advertising their logo and distinctive elements clearly and consistently, in order to become prevalent in consumer’s minds and distinct from their competitor. In other words, let the consumer know that it is unmistakably Adidas kicking goals this FIFA World Cup season.


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