Nike vs. Adidas: the soccer wars

SoccerSoccer remains the beautiful game, but the tussle in Europe between Adidas and Nike over soccer gear is getting ugly.

They both make great soccer ads. Nike’s best might be “Good vs. Evil,” from the mid-’90s, with the group of Nike all-stars battling the devil’s team—an ad that culminates hilariously with the legendary French player (turned legendarily bad commercial and movie actor) Eric Cantona blowing the demon-goalie to smithereens with a flaming penalty kick. Adidas’ fabulous efforts have included the quirky “Football-itis” campaign from the 2002 World Cup, in which soccer stars like David Beckham can’t stop wanting to play, even when there’s no ball around.

(You can watch both of those, and tons of other groovy soccer commercials, here.)

Maybe Nike’s ads are going over better in Europe, though (its soccer Web site is certainly cooler—and may be the best site going in any sport). Adidas, founded by the German cobbler Adi Dassler, led the merchandising market there for decades. But Nike is catching up fast, and not everyone is pleased. Many Europeans resent the latter’s growing share—partly because, unlike Adidas, Nike has practically no history in soccer, and partly because, well, Nike is American and Adidas isn’t.

The fight for share “ain’t over yet—and it won’t ever be over,” Dave Boyle of Supporters Direct, a London-based organization for soccer fans, tells the AP. “Nike is American, and Adidas is European. Europe is not going to let its sport—soccer, or whatever you call it—roll over and go to an American company.”

—Posted by Tim Nudd