In roughly a month's time, much of the world will tune in to watch the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The global phenomenon of football has made way for some of the most hotly contested sporting events and experiences bar none. While 32 countries will wear a kit bearing their nation's crest, the World Cup will also serve as the battleground for the latest in equipment innovation. Over the course of two days in Madrid, Nike introduced and highlighted some of the important pieces of the footballing puzzle both for this summer and the upcoming year as part of its 2014 Football Innovation Showcase.
Innovation and National Pride
Beginning with the first day, World Cup kits from the 10 teams sponsored by Nike (the most of any sponsor) were on display, providing an initial context to the forthcoming collections and technical innovations. A long series of rooms were each subdivided to highlight individual product collections. Capsules inclusive of host nation Brazil (featuring both its own inspired Air Jordan 6 and FuelBand), England, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United States, and more made way for the latest ball development, the Ordem. Along the way, various installation pieces provided a stark reminder of Nike's highly considered approach to visual communication including a piece derived from Nike's latest signature boot, the Magista.
Despite the opportunity to see some of Nike's football footwear up close and personal, new pieces were also unveiled that followed a path not traditionally steeped in heavy innovation. A leather bag, flexing the full 3D printing capabilities of Nike foreshadowed what is inevitably on the horizon. The weave on the bottom, while visually captivating is also environmentally friendly. Look for it on the shoulders of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Junior and Wayne Rooney this summer.
Performance to Lifestyle
"Nike’s penchant for lifestyle was thoroughly reinforced with a space dedicated to its Nike FC concept."
A development quite easy to overlook was that of the Mercurial Flylite shin guards. The archaic foam-molded plastic guard is something that has been largely unchanged aside from the odd home custom-molded versions. Utilizing a transparent construction with a dynamic webbing, the guard is both lightweight and overcomes the traditional stuffy experience associated with regular guards.
As the gauntlet of product drew to a close in the last remaining room, Nike's penchant for lifestyle was thoroughly reinforced with a space dedicated to its Nike FC concept. While few doubt the innovation of Nike as a sportswear brand, it's often their athletes that help drive and inspire the need to be better every step of the way. For a first season and with the help of OG Ronaldo, Canavarro and Figo, the Nike FC collection brought forth perhaps overly simplistic logo-driven motifs, but select pieces including jackets and iterations of the N98 track top signaled where the label plans to go.
Unveiling the Nike Mercurial Superfly IV
The first day's events served as an appetizer for the main event on the following day, the unveiling of the new Nike Mercurial Superfly IV with football's newly crowned FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. While many reactions and those of the interview questions overheard were largely comparing the new boot to the recently presented Magista, the differences are certainly there. Created as a speed boot and for those relentless in attack in a much faster modern game, the aesthetics are undeniably similar but the premise and construction provide subtle nuances that should translate on the pitch. From what we gather, the Dynamic Collar and Flyknit have effectively entered Nike's new football boot lexicon of design and may lead the way for a new standard in boots.
Moments before the unveiling of the Mercurial Superfly IV, Mark Parker unveiled a trademark piece of Nike marketing with an entertaining four-minute piece, "Winner Stays." Bringing together some of Nike's most accomplished footballers, the short movie will certainly whet the appetite of both casual and diehard fans globally. When Luka Modrić steps on the pitch against fellow La Liga compatriot Neymar Junior at Arena de Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014, four years of design and execution will be put on display for the world to see.