What makes an icon? What does it take to become an icon? To be better than everyone else and rightfully deserve the spotlight, the paparazzi and the gossip. A lot of people around this globe including actors, musicians, designers and athletes constantly ask themselves this very question, in the search for that secret recipe, which sometimes also holds true for products.
On December 3, the official match ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ was presented to footballers, VIPs, fans and journalists in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a big show. Why? Because nothing excites, moves and unites the world more than the World Cup. And the official match ball has been and will always be the main actor, the most talked-about object of this fantastic event, the icon if you will. In 2014, this will be ‘Brazuca’. So the big question that needs to be answered is – does Brazuca have what it takes to be an icon?
Every icon needs a suitable, sticky name
Ideally, this is a name that is earned, given by the fans. In September 2012, the Brazilian football fans wrote their own chapter of World Cup history by picking the name of the official match ball for the 2014 tournament: Brazuca – an informal term used by Brazilians to describe national pride in the Brazilian way of life. As with their approach to football, it is always full of emotion, pride and goodwill to all. But not only the name is a deep dive into the heart and soul of this football-crazy country, also the way it came about was as Brazilian as can be.
When it comes to the usage of social media, Brazil is the second-largest country worldwide, with more than 85% of the population being active on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks. So consequently, the naming process was created as a huge social media activation giving Brazilian football fans the chance to pick their favourite name. Brazuca was voted for by over 1 million people, coming out on top with 70% of the total votes ahead of ‘Bossa Nova’ and ‘Carnavalesca’.
So. A name that will be remembered – check.
Of course: the looks - Icons always stand out
Icons have an impressive appearance. The design of Brazuca is all about World Cup and all about Brazil, with three key visual elements: The bands – inspired by the famous Brazilian wishbands, the meandering pathways of the great Amazon river in Brazil and the very rhythmic and fluid shapes one often can find in Brazilian nature as well as architecture. The colours – typically Brazilian and taken from the official logo of the 2014 World Cup. And finally, the stars – known to be the symbol of World Cup winners on federation jerseys and also inspired by the Brazilian flag. Taste is a very subjective and personal matter, and you may or may not like the look of Brazuca. However, the design story definitely is iconic. It stands out, tells a story and allows fans to relate to it at the same time.
A PERFECT BODY, ENABLING TOP PERFORMANCE
In terms of the construction, Brazuca is absolutely state of the art. It was developed with a nicely balanced mixture of consistency and evolution. Elements that have proven to be ideal were taken over from the Tango 12 and some elements were taken to the next level in terms of technical excellence. Mainly, the ball consists of three elements: the butyl bladder, the carcass and the surface structure including the outer panels. These panels or actually the shape of the panels are the biggest innovation part. Only six panels, absolutely identical in terms of shape and geometry, perfectly interlock to shape Brazuca. Why is that so special? Usually, balls consist of 12, 16 or even 32 panels. And like with a jigsaw puzzle, the more pieces you have, the more mistakes you can make putting it together. On a ball, having more panels also means having more seams and a seam, especially the areas where two or more seams converge, is always a source of imperfection – more water intake, less consistency, less durability, etc. Creating a ball with only six absolutely identical panels actually is almost geometrical magic.
A perfect body, ensuring performance and control – the Brazuca has it.
Focus and hard work
Just having talent simply isn’t enough to become an icon, as an artist, as an athlete or as a World Cup ball. Getting to the top and staying there requires a plan, focus and hard work. And it is exactly that insight that was driving adidas for the about three years of development to create a ball that is perfect for every condition. Predictable, stable, fair and true. And how do you do that in true adidas style following the legacy of Adi Dassler? Listen – Test – Modify, a formula that was already practised when adidas created the first footballs back in 1954.
It is safe to say that Brazuca is the most-tested ball that adidas has ever produced. It meets or exceeds all FIFA standards, is in line with the latest in theoretical aerodynamics, was taken through extensive dynamic lab tests and – most importantly – it is based and developed on the feedback of the real experts: the football players. In about two and a half years, Brazuca was thoroughly tested in locations covering all sorts of climates and altitudes; in ten countries and three continents. The testing involved 600 players, including goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers to make sure that it works for all positions of the game. Furthermore, 280 players were interviewed, of which 30% were non-adidas contracted – because independent and honest feedback is absolutely key when you are striving for perfection. A plan, focus and hard work.
Icons always need to work with the best on the highest possible standard
Usually, for icons made of flesh and bones, that relates to having the best coaches, managers, physicians or consultants. For a football, that means high-tech production. Brazuca is produced in China by a long-term partner and supplier of the adidas Group, Longway. Why in China at this very factory? The answer is easy: know-how. Since the beginning of the cooperation with the adidas Group in 1997, Longway has established itself as the expert in high-tech ball production. In 2006, engineers and developers from both companies, Longway and adidas, created a Centre of Excellence – the actual birthplace of Brazuca. Here, the underlying production processes ‘thermal bonding’ were almost brought to perfection. Thermal bonding means that the panels are glued together at a certain level of heat and pressure, which results in not a single stitch being needed – a huge advantage in performance compared to conventionally stitched footballs.
Finally, an icon needs to be marketable
Looking at the long history of adidas World Cup balls, this important factor has constantly developed. Since 1970, the brand has developed the official match ball for each end every FIFA football World Cup and, over time, those balls have turned more and more into a cult object, a must-have for every football fan every four years. In 2010, adidas sold about 13 million balls in the Jabulani design. For 2014, and with Brazuca, adidas is very confident to even beat this number.
Now, going back to the initial question about what makes an icon and what it takes to become one. Looking at the list of relevant elements and requirements, one thing is clear: just having the status, in this case the status as the official World Cup ball, simply isn’t enough. It takes a lot of preparation, brainwork, ingenuity and hard work to be one, or to create one. Developing the official World Cup match ball is probably the most intense and demanding product production process in the entire industry. No other product gets this level of attention and no other product is looked at with such critical eyes as soon as the World Cup opening game starts. Does Brazuca rightfully deserve to be the icon of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™? Looking back at the checklist, it definitely has everything it takes. In the end, the truth lies on the pitch, so let the games begin.
if you want to see the world through the eyes of the 2014 FIFA World Cup's official match ball, follow @brazuca on Twitter.