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You might be surprised by the state-of-the-art technology of the World Cup

You might be surprised by the state-of-the-art technology of the World Cup


In soccer, more than in other sports, the ball is the star.

In basketball and baseball, ball changes are often met with ire from fans as well as players, but in football nearly every big event changes balls to accommodate innovations for the rest of the game.

Technology evolves around the game, adidas football innovation leader Hannes Schafke told Front Office Sports. Since 1970, FIFA has commissioned Adidas to manufacture the official match balls for the men’s World Cup, and in 1999 the German manufacturer began designing balls specifically for the women’s tournament. The two are under contract until 2030.

Twenty years after FIFA began experimenting with women’s balls, players at the 2019 Women’s World Cup were found to hit an average distance 15% longer and reach their peak average velocity 11% faster than at the 2015 tournament.

Adidas, meanwhile, designed a 2023 ball named ‘OCEAUNZ’ for speed, giving the company both a marketing opportunity at every match in Australia and New Zealand and a product that could sell for $170.

Adidas hasn’t disclosed how much each ball will cost to make or sell, but major football retailer Sports Endeavors has given some insight into the fluctuating business (the product is also available to consumers in $60 and $40 versions).

When designing [mens] The ball is strong, especially the sales are amazing. When the design wasn’t as desirable as it was in 2018, sales weren’t as strong, Billy Lalor, the company’s senior director of merchandising, told FOS. When it comes to WWC balls, there has never been such a wide range of official balls.

Adidas has designed a very attractive ball for the 2023 WWC. I am confident that by the end of the tournament, he will be able to achieve full sales with his WWC balls in almost any style.

Strong sales of balls, official federation jerseys and other merchandise during the World Cup could help Adidas fight back after costly discontinuing the Easy brand last year due to rapper Yes’ anti-Semitic remarks.

The company reported better-than-expected first-quarter results in May, with revenue of $5.82 billion, down just 1% from the same period last year, beating analyst expectations of a 4% decline.

An attractive ball with minimal controversy over its technical design could work wonders from a marketing and sales standpoint.

OCEAUNZ opened with co-host New Zealand’s surprise win over Norway.Credit: New Zealand Football Global Designs

Adidas designs a new ball for each World Cup that incorporates the latest technology and organizer identity. In the process, a culture similar to that around sneakers was formed, with each new edition having its own design, name, and possibly even a Wikipedia page.

Solne Stmann, Adidas Global Category Director for Football Hardware, said that for each World Cup, we believe we need to create something that feels very specific, meaningful and very symbolic, so it has evolved over time.

In 1970, the series began with the modest Telstar. Its classic black and white pentagon-hexagon design has become synonymous with soccer balls.

From there, the German company has experimented with different aesthetic and technical designs over the years with varying degrees of success.

Al Rihla (2022), Telstar 18 (2018), and Brazuca (2014) all performed well in independent lab and over-the-counter tests (except 2018, as Lalor points out). In 2010, however, the controversial Jabulani was heavily criticized for its aerodynamic performance. When his name was mentioned in his interview, Mr. Schaefke and Mr. Strumann smiled nervously.

Adidas has learned from these successes and failures to create OCEAUNZ, a coined term for the 2023 hosts Oceania, Australia and New Zealand. The company consulted with language experts to find names that were not only meaningful but also an earworm for consumers. I always try to find slightly unusual spellings. Because once you say it and can pronounce it, it’s only memorable, Stollman says.

Aesthetically, Stollman describes the design as endless waves inspired by the Indian Ocean, while also referencing the unique topography of Australia and New Zealand, which includes everything from pristine beaches to snow-capped mountains to the outback.

Adidas and Kinexon have unveiled their connected ball technology for the 2022 Men’s World Cup. Credit: Adidas Advancing the Ball

Of course, balls don’t just look good. Adidas experimented with different designs in the lab, eventually settling on a 20-piece panel configuration with micro- and macro-textures on the exterior. Before finalizing the design, it was aerodynamically tested in the wind tunnel at Loughborough University in the UK and with riders.

The company also had to meet FIFA’s Quality Pro standards, which test criteria such as rebounding and air pressure reduction.

But the key innovation is in its ball tracking ability. After the 2018 Men’s World Cup, FIFA began pushing new technology to improve the speed and accuracy of goal and offside decisions.

This led to a collaboration between Adidas and German sports analytics company Kinexon, which developed a 500Hz inertial measurement unit motion sensor that interacts with the local positioning systems installed at each World Cup venue. Real-time data generated from the system assists video assistant referees.

The technology will be used for the first time at the Men’s World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and will also be used for the first time at the Women’s World Cup this year.

Schaefke said the game of football has had some technical hurdles, noting that the camera technology used in VAR so far was good but imperfect. Looking back a few years ago, it would have been almost unimaginable to beef up the ball so much that it could have technology inside that could track it at 500Hz resolution.

“We see ball tracking as the final piece of the live data collection puzzle,” said Kinexon co-founder and managing director Maximilian Schmidt. Live ball tracking digitizes the entire action on the pitch, enhancing football analytics for new insights and automatic event detection.

But even if you pay $170, consumers won’t get this technology.

Real OCEAUNZ balls on the market are exactly like the ones on the World Cup field, minus the chasing of the ball.




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