Adidas Group, which also owns the Reebok brand, announced last month that it was to create a number of ‘digital newsrooms’ for its brands over the next twelve months to tap into trending topics and, according to the company, build on “moments of celebration and acknowledgement”.
Nike and Puma have recently made similar moves to, in their own words, ‘exploit sporting events’.
But just why are brands, from the world of sportswear and beyond, adopting this journalistic newsroom approach and what can journalists teach us about brand communications?
Own the news
This summer, like Andy Murray last summer, Adidas brand ambassadors will be the people that are making the news.
Hundreds of millions of pairs of eyes will be focused on events in Brazil, where the likes of Lionel Messi, Steven Gerrard and Xavi will #takethestage (forgive the use of an outdated brand hashtag) and create stories that will be seen and spoken about the world over.
Adidas wants to own those stories. It wants to ensure that its brand is front and centre of its audience’s minds as and when the action unfolds in Brazil and it wants to be central to the successes of its athletes, as it was when Andy Murray ended that long, long wait for a British Wimbledon champion. ‘Newsjacking’ other people’s news isn’t enough.
Some will argue that this is merely PR, and they’ll have a point, but brands putting their own slant on the news is no different to a media journalist constructing a narrative to suit his audience’s (or his editor’s) political leanings. Media outlets report the same stories in very different ways, so why can’t brands?
Masses upon masses of content
Of the 32 teams in this summer’s World Cup, Adidas is sponsoring eight of them. It is also sponsoring the tournament itself and it is supplying boots to a good proportion on the 736 players who will be there. That gives them a lot to talk about.
With so much going on across 32 training camps, 12 stadiums and endless press conferences, Adidas has access to an enormous quantity of content that it needs to sift through, repurpose and distribute.
Very few organisation structures are equipped to deal with such a quantity of news and events as the newsroom.
Sifting through an endless stream of news, understanding what is happening and making critical decisions on which stories matter most, where those stories need to be told and how is a monumental task.
However, when brands get it right, it creates huge opportunities to increase their reach and engage those crucial audiences.
In real time marketing, like in news publishing, speed is everything.
Getting to your audiences first is critical if you want to own that story. This means having a team that is agile, fast and can expect the unexpected so that it can respond quickly and creatively to whatever comes its way.
Whilst Oreo is currently held up as the gold standard on this front, thanks to their ‘dunk in the dark’ tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout, other brands are getting in on the act.
From Virgin Holidays marking the passing of the same sex marriage bill, NASA celebrating the Oscar successes of the movie Gravity and Paddy Power sharing the sentiments of many a Liverpool supporter, brands are now starting to understand the power of fast, agile and flexible content.
Real time marketing relies on immediacy – something that modern newsrooms are built upon. If you have a content team that is switched off when the events that your audiences care about are happening, or one that is too bogged-down when the big stories break, it isn’t going to work.
The best content is the content that makes people stand up and take notice, the content that creates an emotion and stands out from the crowd.
There are endless reasons why brands can’t, and don’t, achieve this. Legal compliance, slow sign-off processes, over-zealous brand protection, a lack of trust and a lack of resource are all obstacles that prevent brands from producing content that people want to talk about.
Brand newsrooms are one way to alleviate many of these problems.
Brands are now starting to empower their newsrooms to create this content, free from the scrutiny of external departments that work at different paces, at different times and, in many cases, in different time zones entirely.
Within these newsrooms sit strong editorial controls and structures to ensure that content is delivered swiftly, to the right standard, but with an element of authority and accountability.
It’s not a strategy without risks and even in relatively unregulated sectors, it can result in reactions that aren’t universally popular (the above image, projected onto a building outside the Leeds Arena after the Sports Personality of the Year Awards, drew some ire from Andy Murray supporters), but it addresses one of the key challenges that will always face content marketers – other departments getting in the way.