SPIEGEL: Mr. Hainer, have you already got one of those black-red-gold flags on your car?
Hainer: No, but I actually like this new lack of inhibition. As you know, we recently took over the US brand Reebok. And in the headquarters over there you are greeted by a gigantic American flag. We'd never have the nerve to do that with our German flag. That's why I find this new boom in flags particularly charming.
SPIEGEL: To be frank, this World Cup is neither about patriotism nor about the game itself, because they are just the trappings of the FIFA spectacle. It's really about a billion dollar business.
Hainer: Of course, I have a different view. All of Germany is in a peaceful, joyful party mood right now. Who would have thought us capable of letting go to this extent only a few weeks ago? The crowds are excited. Our guests from all over the world feel good. It's hardly a crime that companies like ours put money into these games -- and make money from them.
SPIEGEL: Up to the opening day it seemed like the fun would be drowned out by loud commercialism -- from FIFA-megalomania to sponsorship bumblings to haggling over tickets.
Hainer: How else could one have organized the sale of tickets, other than to ensure that every participating country gets a certain quota of tickets ...
SPIEGEL: ... some of which would later surface for sale on the black market?
Hainer: That can't be prevented with an event this big. And by the way, there are 82 million people living in Germany, and there are only 3 million tickets for the entire World Cup. Even if all of the tickets had been distributed here, many fans would have been unhappy.
SPIEGEL: The sponsors were given huge contingents of tickets, too.
Hainer: What's your probem with that? We pay for it. And sponsors are not faceless, ticket-eating monsters. When it comes down to it, our tickets also benefit the fans. Adidas alone sold 5,000 tickets to employees at cost. These all boil down to typical German debates -- similar to this fuss by Stiftung Warentest (the German consumer safety foundation) about the stadiums before the games started. We have the most modern stadiums in the world, but you only need one person to come and say: The left cellar door in Block C3 is missing its fire extinguisher. An immediate hue and cry follows -- and the foundation's name is on everyone's lips. The World Cup is also about jumping on the publicity bandwagon.
SPIEGEL: At any rate, Adidas has already won the games: your football sales are said to have risen more than 30 percent this year. Do you even care who wins the World Cup?
Hainer: Of course I'd prefer it if an Adidas team wins, and ideally Germany. But you're right: Most of our business is already done -- the goods are delivered or ordered.
SPIEGEL: You want to sell 15 million of the official World Cup " "team spirit" ball alone. Experts say that's overblown.
Hainer: That's not so. Jens Lehmann claims the ball was designed more for strikers. I have no problem with that. Soccer was invented so goals can be scored, not prevented.
SPIEGEL: The original ball is produced for probably €5 in Thailand, but costs €110 in the shops. Your profit margin must be huge.
Hainer: First of all, we're not the only ones making a profit. The shops also get something. Secondly, the research and material costs are absolutely high. I can't tell you what our margin is likely to be. But we are entitled to a little profit. And granted, it's pretty rare that a product has been marketed as skillfully as this ball has been -- it's just everywhere right now.
SPIEGEL: For two years, about 110 Adidas employees did nothing but prepare for these games. How, for example, did you succeed in building a model of the Berlin Olympic Stadium for 10,000 guests and locating it between the Reichstag (German parliament) and Chancellery?
Hainer: First you have to come up with the idea. Then you have to win over the Berlin Senate, the fedderal parliament and government with convincing arguments. A show like this in a place like this is not only good for Adidas, but also for the city and country. And it certainly doesn't come cheaply.
SPIEGEL: With all that perfectionism, why have you only succeeded in outfitting only six teams, while Nike has eight and Puma 12?
Hainer: Because the sport in the end is not predictable. Some of our teams, such as China or Nigeria, didn't make to the games. Of course I would have wanted to have a few more reach the finals. But let's see which teams reach the final sixteen.
SPIEGEL: Adidas has contracts with Germany, France, Argentina and Spain, Trinidad and Tobago as well as Japan. Nike's teams include Portugal, Holland and -- most importantly -- Brazil.
Hainer: If a team lives up to its role as favorite, it will have earned the World Cup. By the way, Adidas grew by about 30 percent in Brazil even without sponsoring the national team.
SPIEGEL: Nike's most sophisticated move in the fight among giants: The company simply stated that Nike would beat you this year for the first time in the soccer business.
Hainer: Sometimes the competitor fiddles around with absurd figures. For example, if we counted our "Superstar" shoe, of which we produce about 8 million pairs per year, as part of our basketball business, we would be number one in one fell swoop. All serious market evaluations show that Adidas is and remains number one in soccer. But perhaps Nike is slowly getting nervous, because after the Reebok deal they feel us breathing down their back. And we have the ambition to be number one, not only in one field but in all.
SPIEGEL: Why is it so important in the end, this boasting that "We are the greatest?"
Hainer: You have to put that question to Nike.
SPIEGEL: But we are asking you: Is sheer volume really important in the fight for supremacy in the global sports business?
Hainer: No, definitely not. But we can also set the numbers straight when we think they are wrong, can't we?
SPIEGEL: You may. Take these numbers, for example: Your company pumps about 14 percent of sales into marketing. Is that about €1 billion?
Hainer: Could be.
SPIEGEL: How much of that went into the football business this year?
Hainer: A good chunk, but definitely closer to a quarter than a half.
SPIEGEL: So at least €250 million just for football ads. You have signed some top athletes, teams like FC Chelsea, national teams or complete associations. Are Adidas media stars like Michael Ballack or David Beckham always the best players, too?
Hainer: At least we try to get the best, even if no one knows how they will develop later
SPIEGEL: Let me put it this way: If Ballack played soccer just as well, but looked like a cross between the House of Horrors and Quasimodo, would you sponsor him?
Hainer: It would be tougher for him. Because fans today don't only care about achievement, but about good looks, good public appearance and good lifestyle.
SPIEGEL: One could say that the German team belongs to you. Wouldn't business get very complicated if individual stars like Miroslav Klose have Nike contracts? Now he is complaining about blisters in his Adidas sneakers.
Hainer: ... and we helped him (with that problem) long ago. Believe me: We could make a soccer shoe to fit every foot on this planet. Klose's manager probably cares less about his protégé's feet than about his finances. To put it simply: He is afraid of losing million-euro advertising contracts.
SPIEGEL: Isn't it unsportsmanlike to dictate to athletes which equipment to use?
Hainer: We have a contract with the German Football Association (DFB) and deliver the best material, and that is not a problem at all. But seriously: Klose seems to score in Adidas, too. Before the European Championship in 1996, a couple of Nike players wrote to the DFB that they could not play in Adidas. The association chief answered: So stay at home. Bingo! Naturally, everyone played without any problems.
SPIEGEL: One of your ad icons is Oliver Kahn. How much influence did Adidas have to ensure that he didn't throw in the towel after his demotion but still stayed in as number two?
Hainer: For our part, we had no influence on the question of who would be the number one German goalie. Of course, we talked with Kahn. I would have taken him. But I respect the decision of national team manager Jürgen Klinsmann.
SPIEGEL: You must be gnashing your teeth during such decisions. Everything was geared to Kahn as the Adidas man. Lehmann is under a Nike contract.
Hainer: We would have had enough time to pull out from constructing our giant Kahn figure at the Munich airport. But to us, he is no less valuable as number two on the bench. Adidas is true to its players. And I think that when it comes to the fans, Kahn even won.
SPIEGEL: Because he's more marketable as a broken hero?
Hainer: Because he is true to himself.
SPIEGEL: So now Lehmann has to cover up his Nike gloves?
Hainer: That would be even better! Of course he wears our gloves, as long as he is wearing the national team shirt.
SPIEGEL: Is Klinsmann really the best manager we could get?
Hainer: He has to be. If there were someone better after they blew it at the European Championship of 2004, it would have happened, right? Klinsmann has brought fresh air and new enthusiasm into the national team. That alone means he's doing a great job ...
SPIEGEL: ... and gives the impression of being occasionally dogmatic, severely power-conscious and alone.
Hainer: The leadership of the national team is not democratic. Decisions have to be made, sometimes alone. And, incidentally, it has always been like that. But it's really none of (Adidas's) business.
SPIEGEL: How would German football look if it had a face? Like Klinsmann? Like DFB President Theo Zwanziger?
Hainer: No, I think it would look like Franz Beckenbauer. He represents this sport in all its facets, from amateur soccer up to the premier league millionaires.
SPIEGEL: At any rate, the hoopla over the World Cup drowns out a lot of open accounts in German soccer. When is payday?
Hainer: If the German team is dropped early, all the critics will emerge saying they always knew it. If we make it to the final, everyone will say Klinsmann and his methods were always just great. It's as easy as that. Soccer is simple, clear and sometimes brutal.
SPIEGEL: Adidas gets along even better with FIFA head Sepp Blatter than with Klinsmann. In the past, it was even said that Blatter supposedly was on your company's payroll.
Hainer: As far as I know, Adidas only made some rooms available to FIFA, before they had an office of their own.
SPIEGEL: Still, it seems the connections run deep. Horst Dassler, son of Adidas founder Adi Dassler, supposedly more or less invented FIFA in the 1970s.
Hainer: That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but he did support them. It's a matter of give and take. But over the decades a relationship of profound trust developed.
SPIEGEL: Should Blatter get the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany?
Hainer: If it exists for service in football, yes. I don't know the criteria, so I leave the decision to the appropriate experts from the political world.
SPIEGEL: Also thanks to Blatter, FIFA sometimes looks like a billion-dollar business, lorded over by a couple of sinister senior citizens. You, as one of the main sponsors, must be interested in seeing this change once and for all.
Hainer: I know that there are many views on the image of FIFA. But one also has to understand that it is due to FIFA that football is as popular as it is today -- with enormous rates of growth in Asia, Africa and North America. Or that FIFA puts millions into social projects, such as the programs it runs with UNICEF. Just look at Germany: 15 years ago, for example, hardly any of the Munich celebrities ventured into a stadium. Soccer was a sport for proletarians. Today its popularity crosses the social and class spectrum.
SPIEGEL: You have to be nice now, because Adidas is still allowed to present its three stripes extensively at the FIFA World Cup -- as opposed to during the Olympic games or numerous big tennis tournaments, which ban this. Could your distinctive symbol even disappear from Wimbledon?
Hainer: No. The High Court of London has just made its decision. We can use the three stripes at least until the main court proceedings in October. And of course we are trying, together with associations like the IOC, to find amicable solutions. Look at the World Cup: Others may use advertising space on, for example, the shoulders or arms of the athletes, but they don't always do it. But to conclude that we therefore cannot do such advertising would be mad. After all, those three stripes are our identity.