Sportswear giants like Adidas, Nike scramble to make the most of 2014 FIFA world Cup

Most Indians swear by their allegiance to cricket. But when it comes to buying sports merchandise, they invariably tilt towards football.

On the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be held in Brazil next month, marketers like sportswear giants Adidas and Nike, are scrambling to make the most of this year's biggest sporting event. While Adidas, which is the official sponsor of the World Cup, is counting on its brand ambassador Lionel Messi to sell its boots, apparel and accessories, archrival Nike has pinned faith on Cristiano Ronaldo to help sell its team kits and off-pitch collection.

Nike, which is the outfitter for several World Cup teams this year, has launched national team kits of six countries here - Brazil, USA, Portugal, France, England and Netherlands. Apart from these, it has also introduced two football boots Magista and Mercurial Superfly that are retailing for Rs 24,995 each.

"We are already seeing great response for Brazil's team kit," says Avinash Pant, marketing director at Nike India. "Other than team kits, football fans have also shown great reaction to the off-pitch collection inspired by their favourite football teams."

The hysterical demand for football merchandise has also prompted Myntra, the country's largest web merchant of fashion and lifestyle products, to launch an exclusive World Cup store online where one can shop for World Cup merchandise by country. "Sales have shot through the roof. It's 10 times more than what we sold last year," says Ganesh Subramanian, COO of Myntra.

Though the IPL has managed to create a flutter in the market for cricket merchandise, it cannot compete with the excitement that football elicits in the country, says Subramanian. "Today, not many of us would want to be seen wearing an IPL jersey outside the stadium. It's different when it comes to football," he says. "Take Manchester United for instance. You can sell its merchandise all year long."

Nike's overtures in the soccer market ahead of the World Cup have made Adidas, the world's second-biggest sportswear firm, sit up and take notice. Adidas expects to rake in nearly $2.7 billion from soccer revenues this year, which is slightly higher than that of Nike's projected soccer revenues.

In India, while Nike is betting on fashionable and smartly engineered team kits - the all-white England away jersey features the St. George's cross (representing the English patron saint) as an optical illusion that can only be seen from a distance - Adidas is making loud noises about its official match ball Brazuca (retailing for Rs 7,499) apart from the official team kits of Germany, Spain and Argentina that it launched here.

"We have also launched the Samba Pack, a collection of cutting edge football boots," says Adidas India brand director Tushar Goculdas. "Among the Samba Pack boots, the F50 worn by Leo Messi is a favorite among young footballers." The F50 retails for Rs 10,999 at Adidas stores.

To go one up on Nike, the German sportswear giant is also targeting Indian women with its new Farm collection, which is inspired by Rio's vibrant flora and fauna and exclusively designed for women. "In the coming month, we will also launch a collection representing Brazil's iconic symbols," says Goculdas.

However, this appears to be just the beginning of a fierce battle between two titans who are neck and neck in competition. Currently, Nike's soccer Facebook page has 36 million likes to Adidas football's 17 million likes. But on Twitter, Adidas leads with 9.4 million followers to Nike's 8.8 million. It seems the game is all set to go into extra time.

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