Adidas has taken an early lead in the World Cup, at least in terms of the number of teams to be outfitted by the German brand, after the last qualifications for the finals were played last week.
With eleven teams to wear the Three stripes, Adidas is slightly ahead of Nike with ten teams, while Puma's list has shrunk from eight to two –and the Leaping Cat's prospective exposure has been affected by the Italian team's failure to qualify for the final round in Russia next year.
The split points to increasing concentration, as the two leading brands alone will account for 21 of the 32 qualified teams, compared with 20 at the previous World Cup, held in Brazil in 2014. Nike had ten teams at the time against eight for Adidas, but two of the German brand's teams made it to the end game.
The rivalry is quite a serious part of the competition, since Adidas and Nike are estimated to have sold about $5 billion worth of replica shirts around the last World Cup. Earlier this month, Adidas already launched jerseys for the teams that qualified ahead of the play-offs, as well as the match ball.
Adidas is heading to Russia with prominent teams such as Germany, Spain and Argentina, as well as Russia, the hosts of the final round starting in June. Some media reports counted 12 teams for Adidas with the inclusion of Iran, which is shown by Fifa's website to be wearing the three stripes, but the company denied that it had a partnership with the Iranian federation for the World Cup.
Nike managers will presumably be rooting for teams such as Brazil, England, France and Portugal, which will all be sporting swooshes on their shirts. Australia's late qualification rounded up Nike's number of teams to ten, but the U.S. brand will have to do without the U.S., the Netherlands and Chile, which all failed to qualify.
Italy's goalless draw with Sweden last week reduced the number of Puma teams in Russia to two, Uruguay and Switzerland. Apart from Italy, the squads wearing the Leaping Cat in 2014 included four African teams.
A newcomer compared with the outfitters' table in Brazil is New Balance, which will be the jersey supplier for Costa Rica and Panama. Umbro is another brand that will appear on Russian pitches with two teams, Serbia and Peru. Four other brands have one team each, Errea Sport with Iceland, Hummel with Denmark, Uhlsport with Tunisia and Romai Sports with Senegal. Romai Sports is a sportswear company launched in the United Arab Emirates five years ago.
But five of the brands that traveled to Brazil will no longer be represented in Russia. Lotto jerseys were worn in 2014 by Costa Rica, Marathon by Ecuador, Legea by Bosnia, Burrda Sport by Belgium and Joma by Honduras.
The Adidas brand's investments in football teams have been quite fortunate this year. Adidas-clad teams won four out of the five largest football leagues in Europe this year, and it equipped the winners of the Champions League and the Europa League.
Italy's failure to qualify last week marks the first time since 1958 that the Azzuri won't be taking part in the final round of the World Cup. The former chairman of the national football federation, Franco Carraro, estimated in an interview with Bloomberg that it may cost the country about €1 billion, in terms of missed advertising sales, television rights and merchandising, as well as missed sales for travel operators, betting companies, bars and restaurants.