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Adidas vs Puma vs Nike

This summer, the eyes of the world will fall on South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup as 32 countries from across the globe compete for the title of the greatest team on the planet.

However there will be another competition playing out that consists of just three contenders – Adidas, Puma and Nike will all be competing to become the best represented sports wear company on the planet.

At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Puma were the best represented brand with 11 countries out of 32 wearing their jerseys, Nike was represented by eight nations and Adidas six.

For Adidas in particular this was a significant defeat as the company was the World Cup’s official sponsor in its own country, “Our three-stripes logo will be everywhere,” said chief executive Herbert Hainer. They were, but one can’t help but think he would have liked to have seen even more stripes attached to the one thing people were really watching – the players.

For Adidas in particular this was a significant defeat as the company was the World Cup’s official sponsor in its own country, “Our three-stripes logo will be everywhere,” said chief executive Herbert Hainer. They were, but one can’t help but think he would have liked to have seen even more stripes attached to the one thing people were really watching – the players.

Formed from a family conflict

But if there’s one thing Adidas are used to it’s competition as the company’s very beginnings stem from a family conflict. Adidas and its other German sportswear competitor Puma were started when two brothers, Adi and Rudolf Dassler, fell out over 60 years ago and set up separate companies on opposite sides of a river in their small home town of Herzogenaurach.

American sportswear giant Nike had a very different start when it was founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports by Bill Bowerman and Philip Knight, and officially became Nike, Inc. in 1978.

However all three have emerged as the world’s leading sportswear companies with Nike (US$18.6 billion revenue) the world’s largest, Adidas close behind (US$15.6 billion revenue) and Puma currently the smallest out of the three (US$4 billion revenue).

Although Adidas and Puma have the most historically intense rivalry, recent times have seen Adidas switch attention to Nike as the American company poses a far greater threat in the global sportswear market.

“Bringing its products to life”

Since Herbert Hainer took charge at Adidas AG (then Adidas-Salomon AG) in 2000, he has sharpened the company’s focus – selling Salomon and buying Reebok to better concentrate on its core competencies – and, he believes, made it quicker, more agile, and better prepared to “bring its products to life”.

The purchase of Reebok was shrewd to say the least as the company has a strong foothold in mega-market sports such as American Football and Basketball, sports in which Nike have previously been dominant. Perhaps the combined might of both Reebok and Adidas can remedy this.

But Nike remain formidable, you only have to look at their marketing success in football to understand just how quickly they achieve success. Nike’s sponsorship of European football giants such as Arsenal and Barcelona has seen the US outfit pip its rivals in Europe. But the real question is how Nike’s ‘Swoosh‘ logo has managed to get so visible in ‘soccer’, given that it only began to show real interest in football at the 1994 World Cup in the US. And even then it was a little cautious.

“New and innovative products” 

Adidas is woven in to the fabric of German and European football as a whole, and benefits from the profile of star players like Michael Ballack, but it must be concerned by Nike’s success in the region’s most popular sport – and Nike must be particularly pleased considering football is yet to truly take off in the US.

However, Adidas are continuing to make good progress. It remains the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe and now its marketing projects and acquisitions have given it more prominence in sports ranging from Golf to Skateboarding.

Hainer and Adidas have been rewarded for their hardwork with category-leading new products and in a FIFA World Cup year, he is confidently promising “a lot of new and innovative products” to be showcased in South Africa this summer.

In his own words Hainer claims innovation is the “key to success”.

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