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The World Cup has finally reached an end and the champions have finally been crowned. Golden boots, gloves, and balls have all been awarded to outstanding players – but the winners of a very special trophy have been left unannounced.

Major sporting events serve as the perfect platform for brands to take centre stage and prove their prowess. The Superbowl is the perfect example of this, becoming an advertising event in itself. This year’s World Cup is no different; from official sponsors to half-time spots, there was no shortage of branding exercises to keep us wide-eyed and focused.

However, one particular brand of shoes have kept us all on our toes. The next time we watch a rerun of any World Cup game, we will immediately be able to distinguish the 2014 instalment by the presence of these pair of boots alone. And that’s why we have decided to give the FIFA World Cup Branding Trophy (we made that up ourselves) to PUMA’s evoPOWER Tricks Boot.

These beautifully mismatched boots that come in blue and pink (for the left and right foot respectively) dazzled onlookers and got everyone buzzing. Without the need of being an official sponsor, PUMA was able to become the talk of the town by simply taking the extra step to stand out.

Adidas has to pay $70 million every four years to maintain the official sponsor title. Nike and Adidas together command over 70% of the soccer equipment market. Yet, PUMA’s evoPOWER Tricks Boot still won the hearts of 3.2 billion viewers worldwide. These boots are the epitome of branding excellence.

There are two important lessons small brands can takeaway from how PUMA competed with the heavyweight brands at the FIFA World Cup:

The first and most cost-effective lesson is that you do not need the spotlight of TV commercials to be noticed. Nike and Adidas both had World Cup specific ads but PUMA instead allowed their product to do the talking.

The second lesson is to always differentiate yourself from the competitor. There were 704 pairs of feet performing at the World Cup, but only a select few wore PUMA’s mismatched boots, easily increasing their brand equity and leaving the competition unnoticed.

Of course, the competition between Nike and Adidas will continue, with PUMA taking the backseat for now. But for a small fry competing with big brands that have even bigger budgets, PUMA undoubtedly won the pitch at the FIFA World Cup 2014.

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