I've heard that this year they will be introducing a new soccer ball for World Cup. What are the differences between this ball and the ball that was used in previous years? Why did they feel the need to change balls?
Soccer balls are a bit different from the balls in other sports. They are often very colorful and are a significant part of the brands of the companies that make them.
Unlike in sports like Baseball and American Football where a couple of suppliers make all of the baseballs for pretty much all levels of the game, and they are all identicle except the occasional logo, soccer ball manufacturers make new balls all the time (every year, multiple times a year).
These balls usually have unique color schemes, different stitch and panel patterns, all designed for different amounts of visibility, aerodynamics and other properties.
The World Cup ball is special though. It's the signature ball that people will remember for four years. It usually includes colors and designs that are relevant to the home country. The Brazuca is a colorful ball with the star pattern that can be seen on the Brazilian flag. I'm sure there is a huge marketing schpiel, but mostly this is part of creating an enduring symbol for the World Cup.
While the Brazuca seems to be largely uncontroversial (literally the first WC ball in my memory to not have a volume of negative articles written about it), the Jabulani from the South Africa WC had a lot of complaints about it's aerodynamics, causing long shots to float and knuckle in ways that made them very difficult on keepers.
The practice of introducing new soccer balls every year is almost entirely driven by commercial interests (notwithstanding the heritage and memorability reasons). FIFA and the World Cup's organizing bodies enter into numerous sponsorship deals(such as Official Beverage etc) and the Official World Cup Ball is just one of the bigger deals.
Every new ball brings with it a new set of variables such as speed, swerve and consistency that take getting used. So, going by purely the interest of the game, a new ball every World Cup is extremely detrimental to the players and the teams.
But with FIFA raking in millions of dollars with the sale of the Official Ball rights, this is a healthy win-win practice that shall continue.
No figure has been put on the value of the deal, though the last adidas deal for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments was reckoned to be worth $350 million.
You can read more on this here.
Adidas gets humongous amounts of branding, media coverage and sales thanks to the introduction of the ball.
The World Cup soccer ball is a huge piece of business for adidas. In the last World Cup, the company sold some 13 million balls worldwide, including miniballs and replicas. The brazuca’s $160 match ball also comes in a miniball and replica versions starting at $13. But even at an average price of say, $50, that’s a $650 million business for Adidas.
The Guardian had a pretty cool history of the world cup balls with a little info on each of them and how they changed over the years which is worth a look. http://www.theguardian.com/football/gallery/2013/dec/04/world-cup-football-balls-brazuka
This is for the first time that the fans have named the ball for FIFA World cup 2014. Around a million Brazilian Football fans had voted, out of which around 77 % votes were casted in the favor of Brazuca. The name of the ball was released on the 2nd of September in 2012