"Germany is [Adidas'] home turf and we're about to move in," said Karen Halpert, German advertising manager for Nike International in Weiterstadt.
Until now, Nike has run pan-European advertising by Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, in Germany, the only country on the continent where Adidas is the clear market leader. There, Adidas has 35% of the $1 billion-plus German market to Nike's 18%.
In a bold new strategy to link Nike with soccer and leading soccer team Boruwsia Dortmund in Germany, the sports shoe marketer is breaking a TV and print campaign using a strange character called Horst.
Starting at the end of this month, the effort uses Horst, an old-fashioned local soccer fan as a counterpoint to the hip, modern Nike.
"Horst represents the old world, the establishment," Ms. Halpert said.
In the spots, Horst will complain that players aren't what they used to be, and that will be followed by shots of the same players making dazzling plays.
"He'll be our mouthpiece for communicating how great Boruwsia Dortmund is and what Nike's image and philosophy are all about."
The ads by Wieden & Kennedy will also promote Nike's new Protection soccer boots. Nike will spend about $7 million on advertising in Germany this year, most of it on the Horst campaign.
"Adidas owns soccer in Germany," said Guy Hayward, Nike account director at Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam.
Although Adidas is spectacularly successful at putting its own footwear and clothing on soccer players and other athletes throughout Germany, the new Nike effort is believed to be the first time a soccer team will be the focus of an ad campaign.