A prediction of the 2014 World Cup finalist based on shirt suppliers

The FIFA World Cup (hereafter WC) is not only a tournament between national teams, but also a contest between kit suppliers. The WC is the largest sporting event in the world and the global market for football apparel, shoe and equipment is a multibillion market. Adidas and Nike, the two main rivals in the soccer footwear market, experience a boost in football-related sales just before and during the WC tournaments. Adidas is the Official Licensee and Supplier of the FIFA World Cup and since the 1970 WC it has supplied the match balls. The Adidas logo is on the referee uniforms, it has advertisements in the stadiums and its logo on the official FIFA World Cup website. It has also been the supplier for the German team for five decades since 1954. Nike paid the French football federation, up to 2010 supplied by Adidas, more than $500 million to be its shirt supplier from 2011 up to 2018. Nike is more active in social media with its campaign “Write the future” during the WC2010 and “Risk Everything” during WC2014. Puma is traditionally the main supplier for the African teams such as Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon and Algeria.

Table 1. Number of teams per supplier and finalists, World Cups 1998-2014

World Cup Adidas Nike Puma Other Total Winner Runner-up
2014 9 10 8 5 32 ? ?
2010 12 9 7 4 32 Adidas (Spain) Nike (Netherlands)
2006 6 8 12 6 32 Puma (Italy) Adidas (France)
2002 9 8 3 12 32 Nike (Brazil) Adidas (Germany)
1998 6 6 6 14 32 Adidas (France) Nike (Brazil)
Total 42 41 36 41 160

As Table 1 shows, in the WC 2014 in Brazil, kits for nine teams are supplied by Adidas (among which are semifinalists Germany and Argentina), ten by Nike (among which are semifinalists Brazil and the Netherlands), eight by Puma (besides the African teams Italy, Uruguay and Switzerland), with the five brands supplying just one team (Costa Rica by Lotto, Ecuador by Marathon, Honduras by Joma, Iran by Uhlsport and Belgium by Burrda) merged into the category of Other.

The last row in Table 1 lists the number of teams by kit supplier at the last five WCs. Measured by the number of teams, Adidas, besides being official supplier of the FIFA WC and the official ball supplier since 1970, is the biggest shirt supplier overall, followed by Nike and Puma. Aggregated over all five tournaments, approximately there are four suppliers with market shares (in terms of the number of kits supplied) of around 25%, where the category ‘Other’ contains all other suppliers.

The last two columns of Table 1 list the countries and suppliers that won the WC or were the losing finalists. Only Adidas have managed to have a team in the final in all four WCs. Nike have managed to do it three times, Puma just once and the Other suppliers have only managed to get a team into the semifinals once between them. There has not been a final between two teams with the same supplier. Adidas-Nike has occurred three times, and in 2006 it was Puma-Adidas, which coincided with Puma being the supplier for the most teams in the group stage.

As the last row of Table 1 shows, although as many teams are supplied by companies other than Adidas, Nike or Puma, none of these other suppliers (among them Umbro, Brooks, Lotto, Hummel, Kappa and Reebok) has reached the final; only Lotto (Croatia) reached the semifinals in 1998. Summarising, the last four WC finals were between teams with different suppliers, Adidas made it to the final all four times and none of the 41 teams supplied by companies other than Adidas, Nike and Puma reached the final once.

To assess how (un)likely this overall picture is, suppose that at random half of the 32 teams are supplied by company A and the other half by N.1 Then there are four possibilities for the final, with chances in between brackets: AA ((16/32)*(15/31) = 24%), AN ((16/32)*(16/31) = 26%), NA (26%) and NN (24%). So with only two equally represented suppliers, one would expect about half of the time a final between the two suppliers and in the other half a final between teams with the same supplier. It is more in line with the overall picture in Table 1 to assume four equally represented suppliers labeled A, N, P and O, so each with eight teams.2 If teams are only identified by kit supplier, for supplier A we have the four possibilities of a final AA, AN, AP and AO, where the chance of AA is slightly below the chance of a final between a team of A and N, because for any A team there are only seven other A teams compared with eight other teams with supplier N.3 The chance of a final AA is (8/32)*(7/31) or 5.6%, so the chance of a final between two teams with the same supplier (AA, NN, PP or OO) is then 22.6%. Given that the chance of a supplier reaching the final with at least one team is 44%,4 the chance of a particular supplier reaching the final four times in a row is 0.444 = 3.9%. With four suppliers, the chance of having one supplier present in each of the four finals is 4*(0.44)4 = 15.5%.

A slightly more precise estimate5 can be obtained by using the actual number of teams supplied at each WC, as listed in Table 1. For instance, at the WC2010, the probability of Adidas reaching the final is the sum of the probabilities of the finals AA, AN, AP, AO, NA, PA and OA. The probability of the final AA, given that Adidas supplied 12 of the WC2010 teams, is equal to (12/32)*(11/31). The probability of the final AN is (12/32)*(9/31), and so on, which gives a total probability of 62% of an Adidas team in the WC2010 final.

Applying the same method for the previous three tournaments gives 35%, 49% and 35%, so the chance of Adidas being present in all four finals is 0.62*0.35*0.49*0.35 = 0.036 or 3.6%. The chances of being present in all four finals for Nike, Puma and Others is 3,3%, 1.5% and 3.4% respectively, so merely based on the number of teams supplied, the chance of the same supplier being present four times in a row is 12%. Maybe at the WC in Brazil 2014, for the fifth time in a row, an Adidas team will reach the final, whereas ex ante the chance of this happening was very small.

As a final note, suppose that, as in the previous four WC finals, at least one Adidas team will be in the final of the WC2014 and that the final will be between teams with different suppliers. The two semifinals are first Brazil (Nike) versus Germany (Adidas) on Tuesday 8 July, and the Netherlands (Nike) versus Argentina (Adidas) on Wednesday 9 July. This implies that the winner of the second semifinal is already determined as soon as the winner of the first semifinal is known. If Brazil (Nike) wins, then Argentina (Adidas) will win the 2nd semifinal, but if Germany (Adidas) wins, the Netherlands (Nike) will beat Argentina. Wait and see.