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eGuider Exclusive — June 20th, 2010

From the Stitch to the Pitch: The Evolution of Adidas

by John Rota

From the Stitch to the Pitch: The Evolution of Adidas

Every four years our sports-obsessed, media-infused world gets to enjoy the one true World Championship that is held here on planet Earth.  And even though America does not necessarily share the exact same passion for the world’s game compared to Europe, South America, or basically everywhere else, the FIFA World Cup never fails to garner nationalistic pageantry, lavish attention, and an intense international drama that can only be equaled by warfare.

Along with all the fanfare, a host of sponsors and their clever commercial crusades permeate the festive atmosphere, giving fans even more reason to get excited, to root their country on, and of course, to buy new gear to wear in support.

Adidas is perhaps the biggest sponsor of the FIFA World Cup. They outfit the referees, roughly 40% of the 32 teams, and most importantly, they make the official match ball. Since 1970, Adidas has unveiled a new ball every four years for the competition, and since 1986, the ball always contains the flavorful cultural elements of the host country.

Much like the development of the ball, the style of Adidas’ advertisements has always morphed and adapted – acting as a portal that gives us a glimpse into the sign of the times.

Reflective of the years they originally aired, below is a year-by-year view of Adidas’ World Cup commercials. It is interesting to note how they’ve progressed since the United States hosted the tournament in 1994. The evolution is as obvious as it is entertaining.

United States: 1994

In this rare commercial, Adidas uses quirky humor and silly voice over while making light of the Brazilian model of futbol excellence to market their Predator boot. It seemed to have worked being that Brazil took the prize home that year.

France: 1998

In this France ’98 commercial, Adidas shows us a subtle and more sophisticated marketing technique. The vintage footage of Bob Marley kicking the ball around with friends in Jamaica puts a charming, legendary touch on their campaign. As an avid football enthusiast, Bob serves as a perfect symbol of the World Cup and love of the game.

Also from 1998, Adidas went with what is now considered a more traditional World Cup commercial approach. It features the likes of David Beckham, Alessandro Del Piero, and Zenadine Zidane in training for the big event; the Massive Attack soundtrack adds to the scientific, futuristic vibe.

Japan-Korea: 2002

For Japan-Korea 2002, Adidas uses a hybrid of the previous year’s ads, using the recognizable quirky humor we saw in ‘94, juxtaposed with a more polished, old school film-reel look, much like ‘98. “Footbal-itus” is an early example of what we now recognize as a viral campaign.

Germany: 2006

Voted the best commercial of the 2006 World Cup, Adidas struck gold with their +10 push. The best players of today and yester-year come together and play a pick-up game with Jose and Pedro. Live action interweaved with vintage footage, two street kids, a dirt field, and the best players in the game; this ad is what branded entertainment is all about. The song was the quasi-theme of the 2006 World Cup.

South Africa: 2010

For this year’s tournament in South Africa, Adidas has fine-tuned its ad campaign and sit amongst the most innovative, progressive, and entertaining advertising brands in the world. Featuring some of the fastest, strongest and most skillful players in the world: Kaka, Gerrard, Villa, Messi, Di Rossi, and a hooded man of mystery known as Zidane, the question of “Who will lead his team to victory?” lurks in the hearts of the players and enthusiasts alike. Accompanied by an interactive ad campaign where fans can follow and predict the World Cup match-by-match, Adidas’ high-tech, clever series incites massive excitement for the game, even for the casual fan.

Throughout the years, Adidas has been a state-of-the-art force in the realm of Branded Entertainment. Their World Cup advertisements alone are a study in the evolution of viral marketing. Telling stories through the eyes of recognizable figures is nothing new, but telling entertaining stories succinctly, in under a minute and thirty seconds, while simultaneously getting the product across, is an art unto itself, and Adidas sets a certain standard. Through the years their style has changed with the times, and they’ve always stayed fresh, inventive, and a cut above the rest.

A shout out must go to Nike for their World Cup marketing as well, they’ve been as innovative and influential as any brand in history. The Nike Swoosh and Adidas’ 3-stripes are as recognizable as the Sun and Moon. But until Nike makes the official match ball of the World Cup, Adidas will still play the primary role on the biggest sporting stage the world has ever known. I look forward to the colorful, samba-filled style ads they come up with for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the month of games and embrace our Nationalistic pride. If your team does not claim the coveted World Cup this year, take solace in the fact that the commercials will live on well past the tournament.

John Rota

eGuider: John Rota
Film, TV & New Media Producer

John is a producer who specializes in smart, thought-provoking films, television, and web series.  He has worked on many Emmy Award winning shows, including the documentary Legendary Nights, chronicling the 12 best fights in HBO's 30 years of boxing.   While in development at HBO Films, he worked on Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, based on the best-selling novel by Dee Brown.  His company, Divine Madman Productions, is currently developing a web series entitled 13Fights, based on John's experience working and living in the boxing world.

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