Adidas CEO Says Criticism of World Cup Ball Won't Affect Company Brand

Adidas AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Hainer said criticism of his company’s World Cup soccer ball has “definitely” not harmed the sporting goods maker.

“This is always the case that before the World Cup there are some complaints, mainly from goalkeepers,” Hainer said yesterday in an interview in Johannesburg. “It is quite clear the ball is faster, because the ball is rounder. Players have to get used to it. We like that people are talking about our products.”

Players have said that Herzogenaurach, Germany-based Adidas’s Jabulani ball is unpredictable in the air and is hard to control, accounting for some of the early mistakes made at the tournament in South Africa.

“It’s rubbish,” England goalkeeper David James, who wears Nike Inc.’s Umbro brand boots and gloves, said of the ball after teammate Robert Green fumbled a shot from Landon Donovan to allow the U.S. to tie their June 12 match.

For the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Adidas will try to make the ball easier to control, while maintaining its speed, Hainer said. Adidas has provided the tournament match ball since 1970.

“With the technology we have today we can keep the ball as fast as it is today, and we can make it very usable for every player,” he said.

Adidas and Nike, the two largest sporting goods makers, said they experienced a “double-digit” sales boost from the World Cup.

Adidas’s sponsorship of the most-watched sports event will help it record soccer-related sales of 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) this year, an increase of 15 percent from the European Championship two years ago, Hainer said. It’s sold 6.5 million replica jerseys and 13 million copies of the Jabulani ball.

World Cup ‘Winner’

“There is no doubt that Adidas is the winner of the World Cup,” Hainer said. “It doesn’t matter whether you take it in exposure for the brand, in terms of sales, or in terms of market share.”

Even so, Nike brand president Charlie Denson said yesterday that more than half the players playing in the tournament in South Africa were wearing his company’s shoes.

“It’s been our best World Cup ever,” Denson said in an interview. “In the last quarter, Nike brand football sales were up 40 percent.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net.

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