Following the extension of FIFA’s partnership with adidas on Thursday, the German sportswear giant’s CEO Herbert Hainer spoke to FIFA.com about their long-standing affiliation with FIFA, Argentina star Lionel Messi, and his ‘dream’ FIFA World Cup™ final.
FIFA.com: On Thursday, 21 November 2013, adidas extended its partnership with FIFA until 2030. You’ve been partners since 1970 – how important has this long-standing collaboration been for adidas?
Herbert Hainer: The partnership between FIFA and adidas is one of the longest partnerships in football history. We are happy and proud that we’ve been able to work with FIFA for so many years. Today, we’ve decided to continue that partnership until 2030, as both parties feel it’s a ‘perfect match’. We can help develop and enhance the standing of football worldwide, and FIFA can help us achieve our objectives. Both parties are working towards the same goal.
Decisions of this nature aren’t made overnight. What are the reasons for continuing the partnership? It was a natural step for us – we haven’t just been working together for a couple of years, but for decades. We know the people involved, from President Joseph S. Blatter to General Secretary Jérôme Valcke and Director of Marketing Thierry Weil. We’ve known for many years that they are incredibly reliable and fair people who understand our perspective.
You’ve spoken of a ‘Three-Pillar’ strategy in the past. What exactly do you mean by that? The Three-Pillar strategy encompasses the respective event, the teams and the individual players. This strategy has helped us maintain and develop our number one status in the football market. The most important event of all is of course the FIFA World Cup. Thanks to our partnership with FIFA, our standing is such that, even if no team kitted-out by adidas qualified for the tournament – a highly unlikely worst-case scenario - we would still remain an integral part of the game. We provide the official match ball, kits for referees and volunteers, appear on the advertising boards and are well represented overall.
You made the announcement in Moscow – host city of the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. Why did you choose this venue? We are looking beyond the tournament in Brazil and are preparing for the next World Cup in 2018. We also provide the kit for the Russian national team. That’s definitely a winning combination – partners of FIFA on the one hand and providing sportswear for the 2018 hosts on the other.
You were born one day before the 1954 World Cup final – known as ‘the Miracle of Bern’. You were almost destined for a career in football… It’s no secret that I’m mad about football, but the same can be said about my whole family. My younger brother played professionally for 1860 Munich, and when I see those pictures of Adi Dassler sitting on the bench and screwing on his studs, I get goosebumps.
It’s common knowledge that you would have liked to become a professional footballer too. Who would you have liked to play against? That’s true, though unfortunately I didn’t have the talent. I would have liked to play against Franz Beckenbauer. He was my childhood hero. I was always impressed by his graceful style of play and his ability on the ball.
The new World Cup ball Brazuca is launched in two weeks’ time. Can you tell us a little more about it? It’s our goal to manufacture new, innovative products for every major football event. The new ball is going to be spectacular. We are also set to launch the lightest ever football boot. You’ll have to wait and see.
adidas will be represented by eight teams in Brazil. How many of ‘your’ teams could reach the final? Quality is the decisive factor. In Germany, Argentina, Spain and Colombia, we have the four highest-placed teams in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings. I think Germany will play a big role in the tournament, but you can’t discount the South Americans.
You have Lionel Messi – FIFA World Footballer of the Year for the last four seasons – under contract. It’s hard to think of a better advertisement for a company, isn’t it? There’s no question that Lionel Messi is regarded as one of the best footballers of all time. It’s astonishing how much he’s achieved during his career, despite his youth. We’re very happy to have him as a partner.
Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller used to get coffee and cake from Kathe Dassler, wife of adidas’ founder. When did Messi last visit Herzogenaurach for coffee and cake with Herbert Hainer? [laughs] Well, I don’t eat cake myself, but Lionel attended one of our internal corporate events. We also saw each other in January at the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony in Zurich.
If your ‘dream’ final does become a reality, who will you be rooting for? If it does indeed come to pass, I would prefer to remain neutral and say: May the best team win.