How is Adidas Football using dark social, does TV have a place in the media mix, and how did the Pogba signing go so big?

Florian Alt, Senior Director Global Brand Communications at Adidas Football, answers our questions.

If you want to hear Florian speak about Adidas Football, you can hear him at the Festival of Marketing in London on October 5-6. Book your tickets now.

How is social media strategy evolving at Adidas Football?

Obviously, we use social media to tell our stories and bring our consumers closer to us as a brand.

That goes hand in hand with the wider brand mission and ambition for 2020 of being quicker and faster in how we deliver products [Adidas' commitment to delivering 50% of sales through speed-enabled products by 2020].

But one other particularly important element of our strategy is being more open and allowing our consumers to co-create content with us.

In the social landscape, things are changing on a weekly and a monthly basis. Look at where Snapchat is today compared to where it was a year ago.

snapchat logo

The pace is growing all the time, and we are looking for the coolest and most used platforms for our key target consumers. 

As an example, dark social is something we have started to experiment with and tap into, by getting into conversations with key target consumers in a one-to-one relationship using messenger services like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

There is an opportunity for intimate conversation, not pumping out a story or picture or piece of content to the masses, but really speaking to those true connectors, those that have the influence and will carry our brand messages.

We're looking for a new breed of footballers who live in major key cities [Adidas' key city initiative means marketing spend is focused on New York, Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and London].

These are the kids who are influencing their peers; opinion leaders at an amateur and semi-pro level that all the other kids look up to and ask 'What is he/she saying, wearing, thinking, what content doe he/she like or not.'

How do you measure the impact of your work with influencers on dark social? 

We are in the early stages and only a few months into a testing and learning phase.

So, lots of it is down to community management, people sitting there and talking to those kids, then obviously reporting back what they are saying to the business.

From that we learn what content and what products appeal, and we aim to grow communities of up to 500 or 1,000 opinion leaders in major metropolitan cities over the next couple of seasons. 

Then we will obviously look into how we can better analyse what’s happening.

We have digital analytics sitting here in house, allowing us to track the established social media landscape (hashtag usage, for example).

However, with the WhatsApp and Facebook Messengers of this world being fairly new, I think it’s fair to say that there are not really any standardised measurement tools out there.

So for the time being we have to rely pretty much on human resource and communications. 

Was the Paul Pogba unveiling significant and different to anything you’ve done before?

Part of our wider overarching strategy is to focus more and more on video content. It is more engaging and more appealing to the kids than simple imagery.

So, we’ve done lots of testing and learning in the lead up to and during Euro 2016.

What kind of content works? What length? How does this differ between each social media platform?

Pogba’s unveiling felt significant for the outside world and, though we weren't surprised by the pick up, we were very satisfied when we saw it had the impact we wanted it to have.

It wasn’t unique for us because we knew when we had that piece in our hands, we knew it was gold dust. It's something we’ve been doing for quite some time - we refer to it as ‘planned reactive’ content. 

There was obviously no guarantee this transfer would happen but we were preparing and listening to the daily rumours. We had content we had shot, but we were never sure if it would happen or not.

With this new planned reactive approach you do gamble a bit, you produce something to have it, so you can drop it at the moment when it’s topical and relevant. 

If you only start reacting once everybody knows, by the time you put something out the relevance is gone. it will be just another piece talking to the same story that a million others do. So you take the gamble.

We tried our first baby steps in this area in 2014 in our World Cup newsroom in Rio.

The majority of the content we used out there was pre-produced and we were waiting for certain moments to use it.

Some content we adjusted and tweaked throughout the tournament, but there’s always stuff that goes in the bin because it doesn’t happen. 

So we’ve been experimenting for two years, making sure we have the most relevant piece of content in the right format, be it video or still, and making sure we are ready to drop it at the right moment on the right platform when things happen.

With the Pogba unveiling, the stars aligned. We already had videos in the can, we had the most relevant footballer this year, with this amazing personality who wants to just be himself and doesn’t follow anyone else, and add to that the great story of his return from Juventus to his old club, Man United.

When Stormzy and Pogba met in our Adidas office a few months ago and got on really well, we were thinking, 'When would be a good opportunity to put those two personalities together?'

So, when the transfer came up, and with Stormzy being a Man United fan himself, we decided to create a video that’s topical to our target audience.

Music and football are very closely connected and that’s why it went so big.

The piece struck a chord with our target consumers, and we got all the support you could dream of from our own channels, plus from Pogba himself and Man United (an Adidas club, which offered more leverage, more hype).

It was the best bit of content out there at the right time.

Do you feel less able to create planned reactive for TV, or is social just a better medium all round?

For planned reactive content, social media is the best because you can literally react until the moment you push the post button. 

TV, the way it is currently, is much more inflexible. You buy your air time, it’s parked and preset.

If something happens, let’s say hypothetically you book a TV spot in the buildup to a big game but then the weekend before a player gets a red card and is suspended, you can’t react to it any more, it’s booked, it’s fixed, it’s been allocated.

Targeting wise, TV is also much more about mass awareness and reach, whereas social media means we can tailor which messages are seen where, be it via different platforms or hyper-localised and personal via messenger apps.

I wouldn’t say TV doesn’t have a place any more. There are big brand statements via TV, but it's not tactical and reactive in the moment or targeted for our consumer audience.

Therefore, in our area of the business, social is the more powerful outlet these days.

See Florian speak about Adidas Football at the Festival of Marketing in London on October 5-6. Book your tickets now.

Ben Davis

Published 28 September, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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