Nike, Adidas Battle for World Cup Buzz

When the U.S. plays the England in their first World Cup match, the battlefield will be more than Wayne Rooney vs. Landon Donovan. Rivals Nike and Adidas are spending millions of ad dollars, and heading into the tournament, Nike’s got the buzz score edge, according to market research firm YouGov’s BrandIndex report.

The Brandweek Buzz Report by YouGov is a weekly consumer perception report that analyzes the most talked about brands based on buzz: The scores are based on weighing positive and negative perceptions of a brand. A +100 score is positive, a -100 score is negative, and a rating of zero means that the score is neutral.

YouGov interviews 5,000 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of 1.5 million individuals.

The report spotlights:

•    Nike vs. Adidas
•    Ford vs. Japanese imports
•    Credit card brands

Nike Takes Center Field
Nike has had some challenges during the first half of this year generating the elevated levels of positive buzz the brand is used to. The footwear giant lost momentum with the general population, dropping several buzz points through April. Nike’s close relationship with Tiger Woods and controversial warfare-themed ads during the Washington Wizards locker room gun brandishing incident were likely contributors to the decline. By the time the NBA All-Star Weekend rolled around, Adidas was passing Nike with the young men demo.

But the tables have turned. Nike’s three-minute “Write the Future” spot has been viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube. It has become the online World Cup rallying cry, nudging Nike’s buzz score to nearly 20.7, almost the same level as at the beginning of the year.

Adidas, holding steady for the better part of 2010, recently got caught in the crossfire of the soccer world with its official Jabulani ball. (It was criticized for being too light and curvy from several top players in the world.) Adidas tackled the criticism head-on and appears to have weathered the storm. Recent data shows Adidas’ buzz scores trending above its yearly average through the first week of June. The boost is attributed to World Cup anticipation and the recent appearance of Adidas’ own viral video, a star-studded Star Wars cantina scene parody that premiered on June 4.

Ford Leads the Pack
Taking the buzz score pulse of consumers over 18, who will make a car purchase within the next year, Ford has broken away from the pack since the beginning of the year. Its buzz score currently stands at 43.5. The Euro-style Fiesta vehicle won’t be out until this summer, but it’s already being marketed heavily by the automaker. Ford debuted new ads for the Fiesta on Fox’s American Idol in mid-May, accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek video showing how the Fiesta is better suited for escaping zombie attacks than the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit.

So far this year, storied Japanese brands have stumbled along the way. Honda, mirroring Toyota’s crises, and impacted by its own recalls and an aging Odyssey minivan line, had its buzz score of 31 cut in half in early spring. It has recovered only modestly. At one point, Honda’s buzz score was several points away from the domestic auto sector average. Despite the setbacks, Toyota has not missed a beat advertising its models, and has revived its buzz score from -58.3 in late March to its present -29.5.

The Credit Card Revival
Like other financial institutions, most of the credit card sector was pounded during the economic meltdown. However, with the passing of The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act in May 2009 and some provisions that took effect in February, credit cards have received a new lease on life in the eyes of consumers. The sector’s buzz scores have gone far above from what they were a year ago.

Combined with increased consumer spending, the score rebound was impressive. In final buzz score order, sector leader Visa soared from 28.5 a year ago to 50.5; followed by Mastercard, which went from 8 to 37; Discover from 2.7 to 31.4; and American Express from 3.4 to 28.1.