Source: Adidas.

The World Cup is under way and getting closer to the grand finale. In addition, this globalmatch-up is pitting Nike (NYSE:NKE) and Adidas (OTC:ADDYY) against each other for best long-term value after the tournament ends. The world cup is expected to have more viewership than any other televised event in the world. American Nike and German Adidas went head to head on the field as these companies' home teams battled last Thursday. Unfortunately for U.S. fans, the German soccer team won the day with a 1-0 victory over the U.S. But for interested investors, the game is still going. For Foolish value seekers, is Nike or Adidas a better play for the long term?

The world cup will be the most viewed event in history. Which team, or business, will win the most this summer? Source: WorldSoccerTalk.

Sponsoring the World Cup: Which team had the strongest play?
FIFA's World Cup partners pay a hefty price for the privilege to be so closely affiliated with the event. These companies reportedly pay some $25-50 million this year for the honor, of which Adidas is doing to continue its partnership started in the 1970's. Next in line are FIFA's World Cup sponsors, which pay in the range of $10-$25 million per year. However, while Adidas is paying this hefty amount, competitor Nike is not an official partner or sponsor. All of Nike's publicity at the event is coming from creative marketing and team or player sponsorship.

Nike and Adidas have each spent a significant sum sponsoring individual players and promoting teams for the World Cup. The two companies are the major players in these team sponsorships, together sponsoring 19 of the 32 teams in the tournament. Nike sponsors 10 teams, including Brazil and the United States, while Adidas sponsors nine, including the last World Cup champion, Spain, which unfortunately for Adidas was knocked out of the competition relatively early on.

Other than bragging rights, a strong bet in sponsorships and creative marketing could lead to increased sales momentum. In this way, Nike is already winning, as its choice to save on the hefty price of an official partnership with FIFA means it is already $25-$50 million ahead of Adidas, while so far getting seemingly just as much publicity. But beyond marketing dollars for the World Cup, which team is the best play for long-term investors?

Source: Fifa Store.

The incumbent victor: Adidas
Adidas has one major head start in this tournament having sponsored the last World Cup champion, Spain. Unfortunately for Adidas, Spain was already beat out, but the company still has some interesting prospects. 

Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer recently commented that he estimated his company to generate approximately $2.8 billion from the soccer segment during this year, helped by the publicity of the World Cup. So, with what should be a strong return on investment from this World Cup, let's decide if the company's valuation makes sense.

At a P/E ratio of over 22, Adidas is a little pricey compared to the overall market, and it does not pay a dividend. However, the share price is near the bottom of its 52-week history, and World Cup revenues are still yet to come to balance out the large investments it's had to pay in the last couple of quarters getting ready for this summer. Still, to support this price, investors should ask if there is something coming that will cause future growth in this company, other than the same World Cup sponsorship it has played for the last four decades.

Just some of the athletes Nike is sponsoring this summer. Source: Nike.

The next line up: Nike
Nike reported approximately $2 billion in soccer sales last year, a number that should climb substantially this year with the addition of extensive World Cup exposure in 2014. Additionally, this was only a small part of the company's total 2013 revenue of $25.3 billion.

One way Nike is up on Adidas already in this game, is that the company did not "officially sponsor" the games, meaning that its marketing tactics have less to make up before getting a good return on investment. Instead, the company is focusing on smart marketing and player or team endorsements. 

But more important than just throwing its name around on players jerseys, Nike has done an exceptional job of getting its name on players' feet. Soccer cleats, one of the only major innovative parts of the game, is one area where Nike is the unchallenged leader. With its newest soccer boot, the Magista, the company is proving it is the company continuing to drive product innovation, with more than just a marketing scheme.

This innovative company is not cheap, and Nike's P/E ratio of 26 is even more expensive than that of Adidas. However, for this higher P/E, investors are getting a 1.3% dividend yield, as well as rising revenues in 2013 and the start of 2014 as the company continues to drive product innovation.

Source: IBTimes.

Which one is a winner?
With great operations from this year's World Cup, and interesting investment catalysts, both companies deserve a Foolish investor's look. But for investors looking for a long-term win, Nike seems to win this match up.

Though Adidas is cheaper now, the company doesn't have the same growth catalysts Nike has. For 2013, Adidas drove sales up 3% on a currency-neutral basis, well below Nike's 9.7% revenue growth for its 2013 fiscal year.

Most of all, Nike has the innovation to back up its price, as is evident in how much more prominent its soccer cleats are in this year's tournament. However, Nike is certainly not cheap right now, and for value investors, it might still be too expensive to get in now. Fortunately, this next company might be a much cheaper long-term play on innovation.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.