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The Real Winner of the Women's World Cup: Nike

The Real Winner of the Women's World Cup: Nike
Image credit: REUTERS | Lucy Nicholson

The 2015 Women’s World Cup final on Sunday was a ratings smash success: More than 20 million people tuned in to watch the U.S. beat Japan 5-2.

That’s a lot of eyeballs—more than double the number that watched four years ago, and more American viewers than have ever tuned in to a soccer match in TV history. That means the game was a major opportunity for consumer brands, and indeed, many were on hand with signage and advertisements, including Coca-Cola and Visa, which are official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup.

But it was Nike—not even an official FIFA sponsor—that won the day, according to marketing firm Amobee Brand Intelligence. In the six-hour period beginning at the start of the game, the company tracked 2.87 million tweets having to do with the U.S. Women’s National Team or the Women’s World Cup. The lion’s share of those tweets (1.08 million) used the hashtag #USA, so the game was clearly great for American patriotism. But it was also great for Nike: According to Amobee, Nike was the most mentioned brand in tweets leading up to and during the game. Between June 6 and July 5, Amobee reports that Nike was 121% more associated to the World Cup than Adidas.

That’s a real blow for Adidas, which is the official apparel sponsor of the FIFA World Cup. Nike, however, is a sponsor of the U.S. Women’s team, and in this case, that proved the more powerful deal. Nike also ran an ad featuring many of the U.S. players, which prompted tweets that included the hashtag #NoMaybes. (Adidas’s soccer-related hashtag was #BeTheDifference.)

Amobee, which was founded in 2005 and acquired by Singtel in 2012, adds that U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd, who achieved a hat trick early in the game, was the most tweeted-about player. For some context: Lloyd was 200% more seen on social media on Sunday than all 30 MLB teams combined.

While Nike is the outfitter of the U.S. women’s team, many of the women have other endorsement deals and made significant strides to expand their own brands this year. Christen Press is the new spokesperson for Coppertone; veteran Abby Wambach has personal deals with Gatorade and Panasonic, among others; and goalie Hope Solo, despite recent off-the-field controversies, has been the prominent face of Nike’s soccer campaign.

Adidas has struggled recently in the U.S. market—its share in footwear has fallen to rival Nike and, in apparel, to both Nike and upstart Under Armour. Adidas is the sponsor of Major League Soccer, but after its NBA contract expires at the end of the next NBA season, it will not be the official sponsor in any of the three big American leagues.

The German sports brand remains the company first associated with soccer globally, but America is the only market where that isn’t much of a competitive advantage. Nike has made strides in soccer and the two are in a fierce battle for U.S. share of the sport. Nike sponsors Cristiano Ronaldo, Adidas sponsors Lionel Messi; Nike outfitted 11 of the teams that played in this year’s Women’s World Cup, Adidas outfitted six.

But while it may have fallen to the Swoosh this time, this year’s World Cup wasn’t a total loss for Adidas: Amobee ranks it second of all the brands associated with the Cup in terms of digital consumption. The rest of the top 10 were Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Visa, Budweiser, AT&T, Kia, Marriott and Mondelez.


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