Adidas fights off Nike/Puma 'World Cup' challenge

Adidas, which has dominated previous FIFA World Cups, will sponsor fewer teams participating at this year's tournament than long-time arch rivals Nike and Puma. Just six teams will be playing in Adidas's trademark three-stripes kits, while Nike has signed up eight teams to wear its 'swoosh' logo.

"It's remarkable that market leader Adidas will have fewer teams than its toughest pursuer Nike," said analysts at German Landesbank Rheinland-Pfalz in a study quoted by Reuters. But Adidas has vowed to fight back and play out its role as an official sponsor of world football body FIFA, which will give it advertising rights in the 12 stadiums.

With a total global audience of 32 billion expected to watch the 64 matches on television - 10 percent more than in 2002, according to TV rights agency Infront - the competition to raise brand awareness has never been tougher. Marketing costs are treated as secrets but Adidas and Puma have said they will stage their biggest ever marketing campaigns, while Nike plans to spend more than at the 2002 Cup.

LRP analysts say Nike is still lagging Adidas in the market for football gear but has come closer with a market share of 30 percent. Adidas has some 35 percent and Puma around 9 percent.

See also: Nike reveals World Cup kits of eight nations (13 Feb) and Adidas confirms soccer growth targets in 2006 (13 Feb)