What is a rival?

If a company competes against your company and it is similar in size to your business, it could be your Rival. A rival is a person, group, company, or other entity that competes with another. They exist in business, sports, romance, and many other facets of life.

Intense competition between two similar companies, sportspeople, or other entities is called Rivalry. Rivalries create strong emotions that can be both positive and negative. Sometimes they push us to excel, while other times they lead to destructive conflict.

The Cambridge Dictionary has the following definition of the word “rival” plus two example sentences containing the term:

“A person, group, etc. competing with others for the same thing or in the same area. Example Sentences: 1. ‘He beat his closest/nearest rival by 20 marks.’ 2. ‘The companies produce rival versions of the toy.'”

Rival vs. competitors

A rival is a competitor, however, rivalries imply a more direct and ongoing struggle. This means that while all rivals are competitors, not all competitors will rise to the level of a true rivalry.

A rivalry suggests a back-and-forth contest where opponents are closely matched and constantly challenging each other. A company may have one rival, or at the most two, but never many. However, it can have many competitors.

Below you can see the names of some well-known rivals in the world of business:

  • The Coca-Cola Company vs. PepsiCo Inc.

Arguably the most iconic business rivalry, these soft drink giants have been battling for market dominance for decades.

  • McDonald’s vs. Burger King

The fast-food titans and their fight for burger supremacy have been the subject of countless ad campaigns.

  • Microsoft vs. Apple

These tech giants have competed fiercely in the realms of personal computers, operating systems, and mobile devices.

Famous rivals such as Sherlock Holms vs. Prof. Moriarty, Ali vs. Frazier, and Ronaldo vs. Messi.
Image created by Market Business News.
  • Nike vs. Adidas

A footwear and sportswear rivalry with roots in family feuds.

  • Marvel vs. DC Comics

The titans of superhero comics and their cinematic universes have captivated fans for decades.

  • Boeing vs. Airbus

The dominant players in commercial aircraft manufacturing, vying for control of the skies.

  • Samsung vs. Apple

This rivalry encompasses smartphones, tablets, and the broader tech ecosystem.

  • Visa vs. Mastercard

These payment processing giants compete globally for the top spot in credit and debit card services.

  • FedEx vs. UPS

Two major players in package delivery, battling for speed and efficiency.

  • Unilever vs. Procter & Gamble

Classic rivals in the consumer packaged goods industry. Examples include: Laundry Detergent – Unilever (Persil, Omo) vs. P&G (Tide, Ariel). Personal Care – Unilever (Dove, Axe) vs. P&G (Pantene, Gillette). Beauty Products – Unilever (TRESemmé, Pond’s) vs. P&G (Olay, SK-II).


A rivalry, at its core, is born from a contest. In a championship game, the contest is formal. However, it can also be unspoken, as is the case when two companies vie for the same customers.

Rivals want the same thing, whether it is greater market share, first prize in a race, the leading role in a theatrical production, dominance in technological innovation, a prestigious award in academia, exclusive rights to a valuable resource, or something else. Only one can ultimately have it.

  • Healthy competition

Good rivals can bring out the best in each other. In a Wimbledon final tennis match, for example, the two players might push each other to their physical and strategic limits, showcasing unparalleled skill and determination.

  • When things turn ugly

If competitive urges turn into fear, jealousy, or malice, then rivalry becomes harmful. Instead of fueling improvement, the focus becomes tearing down the opponent.

Sometimes, when animals (including humans) compete for a mate, the confrontation can result in serious injury and even death. History is full of conflicts between nations driven by unchecked rivalries.

Types of rivalries

There are many different kinds of rivalries. Let’s take a look at ten common ones:

  • Business Rivalry:
    Companies compete for market share and dominance.
  • Sports Rivalry:
    Athletes or teams face off, fueled by history and passion.
  • Personal Rivalry:
    Individuals compete for goals, recognition, or jealousy.
  • Political Rivalry:
    Parties or candidates vie for leadership and control.
  • Academic Rivalry:
    Students or schools aim for top achievements and rankings.
  • Technological Rivalry:
    Entities race for innovation and tech leadership.
  • Cultural Rivalry:
    Cultures or countries compete in arts and influence.
  • Economic Rivalry:
    Nations strive for economic performance and influence.
  • Military Rivalry:
    Groups or countries seek military superiority.
  • Sibling Rivalry:
    Siblings vie for attention and approval.

Final thoughts

Rivals and rivalries exist everywhere – they are a fact of life. They can be a force for good, driving us to improve ourselves, or sources of bitterness and negativity.

The key for us is to recognize the presence of a rivalry and choose to make it a motivation for growth rather than a destructive force.