Adidas, Nike, and Puma will be relying more on individuals to sell football boots, shirts and accessories during Euro 2016 over the coming month.
The tournament is this year’s top event for the world’s biggest sports-gear suppliers.
Adidas, roughly tied for market share with Nike in the $5bn (€4.4bn) global soccer-gear market, is banking on top players’ ability to reach fans directly and shifting a larger part of its $2.7bn annual marketing budget toward them compared with the big team sponsorships that defined its past.
Part of the reason is the rise of social media — getting sporting idols to recommend a brand’s accessories on Twitter and Instagram can grant more bang for the marketing buck than spiralling team sponsorships, which can top $1bn.
Campaigns built around individual stars also let the brands get their message to kids in a more controlled fashion than through decade-long club links, at a time when fast-changing tastes mean kids want new colours and designs every few months.
In addition to the German stars, whose team won the World Cup two years ago, Adidas plans to promote France’s Paul Pogba during the Euros.
The company last month ended its deal with Chelsea, worth about $438m over a decade, six years ahead of time. Adidas has also exited sponsorships with German clubs Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and FC Nurnberg.
However, team sponsorships are still important marketing tools. Adidas benefits from its associations with Juventus and Bayern Munich. Barcelona, a Nike team, boasts 17.7m Twitter followers.
While team sponsorships boost brand awareness, player deals are best for selling shoes. Next week, Adidas will give a forecast for sales of football boots and gear compared with the €2.2bn it sold last year.
Nike, which reports annual results on June 24, sold $2.2bn of gear last year.
It recently opened a space in Paris dubbed the Palais of Speed, showcasing videos and exhibits built around stars including Cristiano Ronaldo, whose 42.9m Twitter followers are a key conduit for Nike to his fans.
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