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Nike v. Adidas: Soccer World Cup sponsors gear up for England, Spain finale

By Katherine Masters, Amy Tennery and Helen Reid

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) -When England and Spain face off in Sunday's Women's World Cup final, there will be more than sporting pride at stake. A potential multimillion dollar sales boost is also on the table for the winning team's sponsor - Nike, or Adidas.

Sports sponsorship is a huge driver of sales for apparel manufacturers. In 2019, Nike's home jersey for the World Cup-winning U.S. National Women's Team became the top-selling soccer jersey, for both men and women, ever sold in a single season on its website, executives told investors.

Overall revenue in the first quarter after the tournament grew 10%, Nike said, including double-digit growth in the company's women's business "off the back of an incredible summer of celebrating female athletes."

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Apparel revenue from the 2019 Women's World Cup was four times bigger than it was for the 2015 event, executives said.

Now longtime rivals Nike, sponsoring England, and Adidas, sponsoring Spain, will be hoping to build on that performance.

"It's after the game when they really start to get that exposure and bang for their buck," added Liz Papasakelariou, the North American consumer products lead for consulting group Publicis Sapient.

Nike and Adidas accounted for the majority of the kits worn in the women's tournament, with 23 of the 32 team jerseys in the newly expanded field supplied by the two companies. Nike backed 13 teams, while Adidas had 10.

An unpredictable tournament with major power players knocked out early created bumps in demand for merchandise from the two sportswear giants.

Nike lost enormous earning potential as the U.S. team, which it has sponsored since 1995, suffered their earliest exit ever in the tournament.

However, its deal with the European champions England has proven lucrative as the Lionesses go for their maiden title in the final against Spain.

The England women's jersey, priced at 79.95 pounds ($102), was sold out in all sizes except for extra-small on retailer JD Sports' website on Wednesday, mimicking the demand seen during the Lionesses' historic run to the European Championship last year.

England jerseys looked set to sell out before the final at retailer Sports Direct, with a "massive uptick" in demand for celebration flags and bunting too, according to Ger Wright, managing director of sport at parent company Frasers Group.

"The demand for the Lionesses Nike jersey has been incredibly strong, and given their tremendous win to make it into the final, we expect fans will be showing their support by wearing the team's colors," Nike said.

Adidas said it sees "continued demand" for Spain jerseys and is replenishing stocks in retail partners and its own stores. Its replica jerseys are priced at 90 euros, while authentic jerseys cost 140 euros.

The German sportswear giant also plans to roll out "bespoke celebratory apparel" within days of the final if Spain lift the trophy.

Tournament co-host Australia's run to the semi-final, where they lost to England on Wednesday, also prompted "unprecedented demand" for the team's jersey, Nike said, with 13 times as many sold to date in Australia than in the same period of the 2019 tournament.

Adidas' CEO earlier this month said demand for its Women's World Cup products overall has been stronger than it expected.

Spanish broadcaster TVE saw an average of 1.92 million viewers with a 45.5% share during Spain's semi-final win over Sweden, making it the most watched Women's World Cup match yet in the country.

With an average audience of 7.13 million viewers - and a peak of 11.15 million - Australia's semi-final against England was the highest-rated television program in Australia recorded by research firm OzTAM since it launched in 2001.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery and Kate Masters in New York and Helen Reid in London; Additional reporting by Fernando Kallas in Madrid and Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Jan Harvey)