Nike Unveils Superfly in $5 Billion Soccer Supremacy Battle

Nike Inc. stepped up preparations for June’s soccer World Cup by introducing a lightweight cleat and a new television spot at an event in Madrid with FIFA world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Mercurial Superfly soccer shoe is made of woven fibers for lightness and is the latest version of a product line that made its debut in 1998, the world’s largest sporting-goods maker said today in a statement. The ad features Nike’s roster of sponsored stars, including Real Madrid star Ronaldo.

For Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, the World Cup that starts June 12 marks the next phase of its battle with Germany’s Adidas AG for supremacy in sales of cleats, uniforms, balls and leisure wear inspired by soccer. Nike surpassed $2 billion in soccer sales for the fiscal year that ended last May and Adidas has set a goal of 2 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for this year.

“These are the moments that Nike lives for,” Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker said at the event, held in the Salon de Reinos, a large, ornate hall in the Spanish capital’s center. Nike decked out the hall in artificial turf and faux concrete stadium risers for the occasion.

Adidas is the official sponsor of the World Cup, which will be played in Brazil in June and July, and is supplying the match ball and uniforms for eight teams -- including top-ranked Spain, Germany, Argentina and Colombia. Its key star is Lionel Messi, who plays for FC Barcelona and Argentina.

‘Risk Everything’

Nike is sponsoring 10 teams, including Brazil, England, France and the U.S. It’s also capitalizing on the 20th anniversary of its entry into the sport at the 1994 World Cup with a line of retro-looking sneakers, t-shirts and jackets.

The Superfly shoe, available June 12, uses Nike’s Flyknit technology, which features woven fibers for lighter weight, better fit and precise ball handling, the company said. The top-end version will retail for $275.

Nike’s new ad is the next phase of its “Risk Everything” campaign created by its longtime agency Wieden & Kennedy. The full four-minute spot, which revolves around a star-studded pickup soccer game, will air on Google Inc.’s YouTube starting today and appear on television starting next week.

Ronaldo and others in the latest commercial -- including Wayne Rooney of England’s Manchester United and Neymar Da Silva Santos Jr., a Brazilian player for FC Barcelona -- will take the field for their national teams this summer wearing Nike cleats.

Nike shares fell 0.1 percent to $73.30 at 11:52 a.m. in New York trading. They have fallen 6.8 percent this year, while Adidas stock has declined 17 percent.

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