World Cup 2014: Battle of the brands

International companies are creating a storm with the release of Internet adverts.

The official ball of the 2014 World Cup, 'The Brazuca' is featured in an advert by Adidas. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The build up to the 2014 Fifa World Cup has been buzzing with talk of Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi, Brazil versus Spain, samba football versus tiki taka, Bafana versus (wait, that's not happening).

Off the field there is another sough-after crown which is being hotly contested by some of the world's biggest names - that of the unofficial "advert of the tournament".

Nike and Adidas have long fought for the bragging rights as the top football brand and both sportswear apparel giants have used their premier drawcards, Ronaldo for Nike and Messi for Adidas, to good effect in their television commercials.

Adidas was first out of the blocks when it unveiled its "I am brazuca" ad in December last year. Brazuca is the name of the official World Cup ball.

Adidas has been associated with Fifa since 1970 and the company is the governing body's official apparel and ball sponsor. The German firm also sponsors nine of the teams playing in this year's tournament.

Adidas is facing stiff competition from Nike, which has continued to wrestle for market share. Nike is sponsoring 10 teams at the World Cup and is investing heavily in marketing ahead of the global event. While the American company isn't one of the official sponsors, it is using clever promotion tools to ensure the brand fights for space in the hearts and minds of billions of soccer fans.

Nike released its "Winner stays on" advert in May and at the time of publishing, it had racked up over 72 million views on YouTube.

Several of Nike's high-profile ambassadors, including Ronaldo, Neymar, Wayne Rooney and Andres Iniesta, feature in the video, which is clearly meant to replicate a World Cup-style tournament without drawing the ire of Fifa by using any official branding.

Neymar, who carries the weight of Brazil's hopes on his slight shoulders, also headlines an advert for Beats by Dre headphones, which includes some of the biggest names in football and the biggest in basketball, Miami Heat forward LeBron James.

Within 18 hours of being uploaded the Beats advert, entitled "The Game before The Game", had garnered more than 900,000 views on YouTube.

Another advert getting people talking is one created by McDonald's, one of the tournament's official sponsors. The made-for-online video doesn't feature any sporting personalities, but aims to captivate viewers with some dazzling skills by a young Irish boy, an older Brazilian man and a woman wearing high heels.

Soccer has long been known as the "game of billions" and as fans try to emulate their heroes by wearing their boots, replica gear and headphones, the battle off the field (and online) is likely to be fiercer than ever.