After a month of tears, joy, and drama, Euro 2020 came to a close last night with England taking on Italy at Wembley Stadium. Mancini vs. Southgate. Breakfast tea vs. espresso macchiato. Nike vs. PUMA. There could only be one winner and, as they always seem to do in recent times, it was the Azzuri that came out on top.
Like any major tournament, the actual football was just one arena where a battle was being fought. An estimated 31 million people watched last night's game on television in the UK alone, which shows just how massive these showpieces are for brands. Not least those in the sportswear space, where the association with the best performing teams and players (or a magic moment) can see a certain jersey or boot go down in history.
Now the tournament is wrapped up and the trophy headed to Rome, we take a look back at how Nike, adidas, PUMA, and the rest performed.
It's unsurprising that Nike, as the market leader, came into this tournament with its Swoosh logo on the most teams, kitting out nine of the 24 participants. Its arch-rival, adidas, fell just in behind sponsoring eight teams, while PUMA had four. Hummel (Denmark), Jako (North Macedonia), and Joma (Ukraine) made up the rest. Despite having fewer representatives than the big two, it was the brand with the pouncing big cat who will no doubt be happiest at how things panned out.
By the time the quarter-finals had rolled around, eight of Nike's nine representatives had been knocked out, leaving just England as their sole hope of winning the tournament. PUMA still had three of their four; followed by adidas on two (Hummel and Joma made up the rest of the 8). That range of brands got even more granular during the semis, where it was a straight head-to-head between Spain (adidas), Italy (PUMA), England (Nike), and Denmark (Hummel).
Italy might have been PUMA's only real blue-chip name, but its "smaller" teams also stepped up to the plate. The brand gained huge exposure from Switzerland's unexpected run to the quarter-finals, during which they knocked out World Champions France in the Round of 16, before succumbing to Spain on penalties. Both games were legendary, and are sure to be replayed for years to come. The Czech Republic, another name in the PUMA stable, did themselves no harm either, knocking out Nike-sponsored dark horses the Netherlands in the Round of 16.
In terms of money spent, Nike and adidas can feel a little disappointed in how their two MVPs performed, as both France and Germany failed to get past the Round of 16. As per a recent article in The Athletic, Nike's France deal is the highest in international football, worth around $78,000,000 per year. That eclipses the Three Stripes' long-running deal with Germany to the tune of $60,000,000 (adidas also agreed to build Die Mannschaft its own training camp at its Herzogenaurach HQ, which they will again use when the country hosts Euro 2024). For comparison, the same article states Italy's PUMA agreement is worth $35,000,000 (which is less than England's $45,000,000). The least lucrative is reportedly North Macedonia's last-minute deal with German sportswear brand Jako, worth a relatively paltry $555,000.
When looking over the list of teams, there are two other names that jump out. The world fell for Denmark after captain Christian Eriksen's terrifying heart attack in the opening game and their subsequent run to the semi-final. It's impossible not to imagine they wouldn't have shifted a ton of shirts, which is good news for Hummel, considering they only pay out a reported $2,400,000 annually. Likewise, Belgium's supposed golden generation may have come up short again, but it's almost irrelevant for adidas. They snagged the brand from Burrda for a reported $3.5 million per year before the likes of De Bruyne and Lukaku became superstar names. That's peanuts.
It's been a tumultuous time for player endorsement deals in recent times, after Nike let many of its big-name contracts expire following a drastic change in strategy. There was speculation that this is down to belt-tightening, but as The Athletic reported earlier this year, "a well-placed source from a rival brand insisted that the approach is not related to the pandemic but instead an intentional policy change to focus on a smaller number of diverse elite athletes and incorporate social justice into Nike campaigns." This would seemingly check out with its inclusive "Land of New Football" Euro 2020 spot.
Taking this pivot into account, it has always struck me as strange that Nike would let Raheem Sterling — a guy who has continually spoken up on bigotry and social issues — leave for New Balance. Sterling was arguably England's best player at the tournament, and his reputation has reached an unprecedented high (conversely, Nike's UK poster boy, Marcus Rashford, didn't see much action, and capped off a disappointing time with a penalty miss in last night's shoot-out). On the flip side, it could be said that Nike had no real say in keeping the Manchester City winger. Similar to Neymar Jr.’s tie-up with PUMA, Sterling is the main man at New Balance, where he will be pushed for big campaigns and exclusive products. That wouldn't happen at either of the big boys and could have been a huge incentive to make the switch.
The big names had a mixed bag of performances. Nike didn't really push its Euros stars aside from Kylian Mbappé, who had a difficult time with France, failing to score a single goal. Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, netted five and bagged one assist, which meant he pipped Czech Republic's Patrik Schick (another Nike athlete) as the top scorer. New PSG signing Gianluigi Donnarumma was already a big star in Italy before the Euros, but his heroics have taken his fame to a whole new level. He won the Player of the Tournament award, which will please adidas, who snared him from PUMA a couple of years ago. Equally pleasing for adi will be the mature performances of Barcelona wonderkid Pedri — they've put a lot of faith in him being a major star in years to come, and he's already repaying them back by winning the Young Player of the Tournament award.
It's impossible to talk about individuals without mentioning Georgio Chiellini, the chest-beating Italy skipper who captured the hearts of neutrals everywhere with his ferocious (and out-of-tune) singing. He, too, is a PUMA athlete, which meant he lifted the cup in head-to-toe gear by the brand. Additionally, PUMA had several players from both finalist nations under contract, most notably Harry Maguire, who took the perfect penalty, smashing it top bins and destroying the goal camera in the process.
Italy and Germany might be huge rivals, but there'll be a few sore heads at PUMA's Herzogenaurach today, with employees toasting the company's (by association) Euro 2020 win. It brings an end to Nike's success in majors, after Portugal in 2016 and France's World Cup triumph in 2020. adidas might have missed out once more, but they did experience success over the weekend as their main man Lionel Messi ended his international trophy drought by lifting the Copa America with Three Stripes-wearing Argentina.
But even if it was a good tournament for PUMA, their reported revenue of around $6 billion is still some way behind Nike and adidas' numbers of $36 billion and $23.5 billion, respectively. In other words, the sportswear game is still a two-horse race — see how Nike provided the boots for more than half of the players there. Not that anyone at the German brand will be giving a damn about that today.