The World Cup is the biggest marketing event in the sporting world. It allows companies the chance to flex their power and try to outdo one another in terms of advertising and revenue. Realistically there only two heavyweights in this fight. Nike and Adidas. The unfortunate thing for Nike is that since 1970 their German rivals have had the exclusive rights to produce match balls for the World Cup.
Over the years Adidas have produced some pretty iconic footballs so let’s have a look at each and every World Cup ball since 1970.
Mexico 1970 – The ‘Telstar’
For many this is the iconic design in the football world. Ask someone to draw a football and this is what they will come up with. The 1970 World Cup was the first to be broadcast on live TV so Adidas needed to design a ball that viewers could see easily. This black and white panelled ball was different to the plain footballs used previously and the design also helped players track flight and movement.
West Germany 1974 – The ‘Telstar Durlast’
Not much to say about this ball. Adidas stuck with the same design and only really changed the text on the ball from gold to black. If it ain’t broke why fix it?
Argentina 1978 – The ‘Tango’
For Argentina in 1978 Adidas decided to replace one iconic design with another. The Adidas Tango went on to be the basis for the next five World Cup balls and was designed with panels of ‘triads’ that gave the impression of 12 circles on the surface of the ball.
Spain 1982 – The ‘Tango Espana’
The design was the same but there was an addition of a water-proof coating on the surface of this ball. This was also the last time a World Cup was played using a ball made of pure leather.
Mexico 1986 – The ‘Azteca’
A ball of two firsts. It was the first synthetic ball to be used at the World Cup and it was the first ball to be designed with the host nation in mind. The Aztec prints on the ball set the trend for future World Cup balls.
Italy 1990 – The ‘Etrusco’
For this tournament Adidas added a new layer of polyurethane foam which made the ball lighter and gave it a truer flight.
USA 1994 – The ‘Questra’
Other than a NASA inspired design on the surface of the ball there were a number of changes made by Adidas. They added new internal layers of foam which made the ball fully waterproof, lighter and easier to control.
France 1998 – The ‘Tricolore’
This was the first ever multi-coloured match ball used in the World Cup.
Japan and South Korea 2002 – The ‘Fevernova’
A complete departure from the iconic triad design this was a gold coloured ball with an Asian inspired green and red design. At the time this was the lightest ball Adidas had ever produced.
Germany 2006 – The ‘Teamgeist’
This was another departure from tradition. Another complete redesign of the pattern on the ball but also a change in the methods used to create footballs. Previous balls were stitched together and this meant that the striking of a football could change depending on which part of it you struck. With this ball that was changed in favour of fewer panels and a method of using glue to bond the panels. It was to give the ball a better flight and a smoother surface.
South Africa 2010 – The ‘Jabulani’
Ask around and people might tell you that this is where Adidas ‘dropped the ball’ so to speak. The word Jabulani means ‘celebrate’ in Zulu but this ball was ridiculed by players and coaches. Adidas tried to reduce the number of panels even further and made it even lighter than any other ball previous to this one. It meant that the ball was unpredictable and unsteady in the air.
Brazil 2014 – The ‘Brazuca’
This ball was named ‘Brazuca’ by the Brazilian public. It is a name that means many things but is used by Brazilians as a positive term describing Brazilian life and culture. so far it seems like this new ball has been deemed a success. It has been changed since 2010 and is less smooth and more aerodynamic making it truer and more predictable.
So that is the history of Adidas and the World Cup match ball. They have the rights to continue producing the official World Cup ball until 2030 and will no doubt pay quite handsomely for the privilege!
For me the 1974 ‘Telstar’ is by far my favourite of all the World Cup footballs. Such a classic design and such an iconic football.