Adidas USA has formally kicked off the 2014 World Cup.
Yes, the actual kickoff in Brazil is still more than half a year away, but for an event of this magnitude, it's never too early to start the hype. Indeed, with billions of viewers expected to tun in from around the world, and millions more descending on Brazil itself, observers estimate Adidas (the exlusive sponsor of the event) stands to make $2.5 billion in 2014.
Last week, the company invited roughly 30 media members and journalists from around the county to its North Portland headquarters to show off the jersey and shoe designs, chat with the innovation team, and play a pick-up game using the new equipment.
The morning began with a short talk by Ernesto Bruce, the head of soccer for Adidas USA, who gave an overview of some of the company's advances in the sport, from founder Adi Dasler's initial boot designs to the rain-drenched 1954 World Cup final between Hungary and Germany, which legendarily hinged on a simple cleat-length change.
"We will be the most visible and exciting brand," Bruce promised, as he unveiled the new Samba line of boots as well as new national team home jerseys for favorites Spain, Germany, and Argentina, weighing in at a feather-light 8.8 oz. (He also showed off Mexico's new home jersey, which as of this writing has yet to officially qualify for the tournament, but is one of the biggest-selling items in North America.)
Finally, Bruce also promised that the company would celebrate Argentine striker Lionel Messi—frequently heralded as the best player in the world—like never before during the tournament, even going so far as to give him his own logo.
"Soccer is in our DNA," concluded Bruce, reciting a well-worn phrase that seems to have become an unofficial company motto.
Following a short group Skype session with Sporting Kansas City midfielder and US Men's National Team starter Graham Zusi (which was only half as awkward as it sounds), we were given a tour Adidas's innovation lab.
Most of the design and testing for its soccer products occurs in Adidas's European headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany (the North Portland facility is focused primarly on running and American football). But engineers were on hand to demonstrate the rigorous tests the company's shoes endure before they reaches the market—from machines that do nothing but bend, twist, and crush prototypes (see right), to actual athletes running, turning, and juggling balls on pressure plates.
The media event was only the first of several ahead of the 2014 World Cup. Check back here for updates.