As the final seconds of the 2019 World Cup ticked down, and the US claimed its victory over the Netherlands, Nike was ready.
Just moments after the match ended, the company released a commercial celebrating the US women’s team and its fourth cup. Nike also put out jerseys commemorating the win, each sporting four gold stars above the crest, and on the back, “Champions” and the number “19.”
It was an opportunity Nike was certainly not going to miss. For years, the brand has made clear that selling more sports gear to women is a top priority, even as it has faced allegations that its internal politics and policies don’t always match its rhetoric. This World Cup tournament was set to draw even more viewers than the record-setting 2015 performance, giving Nike a chance to appeal to more buyers and, as Vogue Business noted, to connect with women and men who cheered the US team as champions of women’s equality and LGBTQ rights.
“This team wins. Everyone wins,” Nike declares in its ad.
Adidas was an official sponsor of the tournament, yet is was Nike that seemed to be everywhere. It sponsored 14 of the 24 teams, including three of the four that made the final stage, the US and the Netherlands among them. It sponsored numerous players, too, many who scored goals wearing Nike’s Mercurial 360 boots. The American star Megan Rapinoe, who won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer, was just one notable Nike athlete.
Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group, an advertising and branding consultancy focused on sports and entertainment sponsorships, says the Nike logo was frequently visible on jerseys and on players’ cleats. “If you polled people, I would say 9 out of 10 would have seen a Nike logo,” he points out. “Adidas was secondary.” The games were played with an Adidas ball, but it’s often hard to see the logo on the ball.
Jerseys, of course, are what many people buy when they want to show their support of a team or player. That fact, along with the interest in this World Cup, which smashed previous ratings records, looks to have helped Nike to a sales boost.
In June, Nike CEO Mark Parker noted on a company earnings call that the US women’s home jersey had become number-one soccer jersey, women’s or men’s, ever sold on Nike.com in a single season. Last week, the company revealed that jersey sales were up 200% compared to the 2015 World Cup, with sales of women’s apparel related to the tournament up more than 150%. Several countries started selling the women’s jerseys in men’s sizes, “nearly doubling the number of men’s jerseys sold over the previous tournament.”
Yesterday, the final grabbed an even bigger audience than the 2018 men’s final, and Nike still seems to be enjoying the benefits. Its ad has gathered more than 5 million views on the Nike Women Instagram account, more than 4 million views on YouTube, and more than 93,000 retweets on Twitter, with each number still ticking up. The jerseys commemorating the win, meanwhile, have sold out online, according to Nike.