Adidas wants an ad agency to kill Nike in 2014

Years ago Fuji’s unofficial mission statement was ‘Kill Kodak,’ something it and digital large succeeded in doing. German sports apparel maker Adidas must feel much the same about Nike, the rival that regularly undermines its tier one sponsorship of the football World Cup by blasting it with ambush advertising.

So Adidas is conducting a beauty contest of ad agencies to try to find one which can compete with the big creative guns of Nike at the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Before the last one in 2010 Adidas appointed Toronto-based Sid Lee to handle its World Cup advertising (Sid produced a Star Wars extravaganza starring David Beckham among others) which found itself up against a steamroller called Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam whose ‘Write the Future’ ad featuring Wayne Rooney and zillions of other star players blasted it off the airwaves.

Nike can be expected to try to do exactly the same but more so in what is set to be the biggest global television event ever. And it has a formidable arsenal at its disposal; the W+K network (which has recently expanded to Brazil), digital giant AKQA and F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi in Brazil whose current Brazil x Brazil ad has over 4.5m hits on YouTube.

Adidas’s approach to ad agencies is eccentric to say the least; Sid Lee was an off-the-wall choice as was its more recent choice of the new London outpost of Seattle-based Creature to handle the launch of a new shoe through Foot Locker.

In this pitch Adidas spurned the advances of both BBH and Mother, exactly the same of agencies (BBH especially) you’d want to take on Nike and W+K in the big one. W+K was a tiny outfit when it first won Nike of course, maybe Adidas is searching for its own version.

Adidas was founded in 1949 by Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler and his brother Rudolf but the two split and Rudolf went on to found rival Puma (Adi had previously made Dassler running shoes). Puma too will be trying to upstage Adidas at the World Cup and it now has the formidable Droga5 in its locker, another fact that won’t be lost on Adidas executives as they mull their agency choice.

As well as Sid Lee and Creature, Adidas uses TBWA Chiat Day for a number of brands in the US so it, presumably, will be a contender for the World Cup job too. But do American agencies ‘get’ football? TBWA London’s Brazilian-born creative director Andre Laurentino presumably does so he could be an element in the mix.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.