How adidas owned the moment at the FIFA World Cup 2014

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Last summer, @adidasfootball set out to be the most positively talked about football brand at the FIFA World Cup 2014. According to our research, it succeeded. The global sports brand’s “#allin or nothing” campaign generated 2.1 million mentions on Twitter, earning it the greatest share of voice among all official sponsors.

What’s more, this conversation contributed to a substantial lift in brand momentum and sales. Adidas reported that fans worldwide purchased more than eight million adidas jerseys and 14 million brazuca footballs, causing football revenues to soar to an all-time high.

How did adidas accomplish this feat? We went behind the scenes to get the scoop on how the brand and its agency partners managed the campaign, from content creation to media planning and measurement.

The team

To support its own marketing teams, adidas recruited top agency players. In the spring of 2012, the brand asked TBWA Worldwide (@TBWA) to manage its overall global ad campaign. It also selected Carat (@caratuk) for real-time media buying and We Are Social (@wearesocial) for its social content strategy.

“The relationships were cohesive and collaborative,” said Rob Seidu, a managing partner at Carat. “All parties saw the big picture, and ensured that the campaign thrived.”

Joe Weston, an account director at We Are Social, agreed. “Activating the ‘real-time World Cup’ meant that we had to be prepared, nimble and reactive. A close working relationship with adidas and other agencies such as Carat was very important.”

Reaching the audience

adidas called its campaign “#allin or nothing,” knowing that the edgy call-to-action would appeal to FIFA World Cup 2014 fans, especially adidas’ target audience: young football-obsessed males.

To reach this audience, adidas turned to Twitter. “Live events are a series of individual moments, all of which prompt huge reactions from fans both online and offline,” Weston explained. “Twitter is the natural place for this reaction due to its instantaneous nature. The ability to join wider conversations through the use of hashtags makes users feel part of something much bigger. And with the Retweet functionality, if your Tweet gets Retweeted, suddenly you could be talking to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people.”

In this convergent world, consumers can be reached on any device, at any moment. Being part of the culture means delivering the relevant content, in the right place, in the instant it happens. We needed Twitter to do this.

— Rob SeiduManaging Partner, Carat

Planning for moments

Immediately after the FIFA World Cup draw on December 6, 2013, adidas and We Are Social began to map out an hour-by-hour editorial calendar of the entire 32-day tournament, and then traveled the world to collect more than 1,000 images and 160-plus video clips of more than 100 adidas-sponsored players.

“At the exact moment a spectacular piece of sporting action happens, all an online fan wants to do — as quickly as possible — is celebrate, cry, shout or scream like an offline fan would,” Weston said. “Fans want content which tells their story, and when you know what the stories are, you can give it to them at the exact time they want it.”

The agency prepared for “planned,” “anticipated” and “reactive” moments. Weston offered an example of each:

Planned moment

“We knew England vs. Italy would be a big game, and we knew we had the two midfield generals on show, so we created an image in advance of the players head-to-head.”

Anticipated moment

“We knew that someone, somewhere, would score a penalty. We anticipated these moments by capturing content of players in this pose, which could then be posted in the moment.”

Reactive moment

“We built flexible content templates which could be manipulated to react to unplanned moments. Two of your best strikers score twice against the best team in world football? Well, you better react quickly.”

Creating moments

To stand out amid fierce brand competition, adidas had to not only plan for moments, but also create their own. To accomplish this, the day after the adidas brazuca was named official match ball of the FIFA World Cup, adidas launched a Twitter account devoted to the icon.

“It was a bold move from adidas,” Weston said. “Giving the ball a personality and wit that would resonate with a notoriously tricky audience was no easy task. But it worked!”

@brazuca charmed more than 3.4 million followers with its cheeky commentary. Thanks to a camera installed inside the ball, @brazuca also offered fans behind-the-scenes content. Followers were able to see the player tunnel and the playing field, and experience team huddles from the most intimate point of view available at the World Cup.

“From celebrities to players to media,” Weston said, “everybody was talking about @brazuca, and the results were fantastic. A post-World Cup analysis showed that our newly formed community was highly engaged, influential and diverse.”

On the ground at game time

Establishing an adidas newsroom open 24/7 in Rio De Janeiro fostered a sense of community and ensured lightening-fast Tweets in response to every key World Cup moment.

“With multiple representatives from adidas’ markets like China, Japan, the UK and USA, and stakeholders from across the adidas business working across multiple time zones with different commercial pressures and varying media landscapes, this was a huge undertaking,” Seidu said. “We had to ensure that adidas spoke to the World Cup culture, as it evolved, in real time, responding to real events.”

One of Seidu’s favorite examples of this occurred on July 4, when Colombia was eliminated from the tournament. The adidas team quickly retrieved an image from its collection, wrote copy to accompany it, and sent this poignant Tweet:

Optimizing results

Carat analyzed the results of adidas’ promoted activity on Twitter on an hourly basis. “This allowed the brand to identify emerging trends and critical areas of focus,” Seidu explained. “We knew what was ‘about to blow.’”

The agency also gleaned creative insights in real-time to determine what content resonated most with users, and quickly pivoted and refined its approach when necessary. As a result, “come the latter, more significant stages of the tournament, we had optimized creative, and had a super slick implementation model,” said Seidu.

Final stats

According to our research, in addition to being the most talked about football brand during the FIFA World Cup, adidas enjoyed an average engagement rate of double the Twitter platform average. Total conversation about the brand increased by 116%, and positive brand sentiment increased by 236%.

Keys to success

When asked how he would advise other brands interested in owning live events on Twitter, Weston had this to say: “Planning, planning, planning.”

Speed, he added, is crucial. In the case of the FIFA World Cup, he noted a shared passion for football and expert knowledge of the game was also helpful.

Finally, Weston recommended that brands seek an in-depth understanding of their audience. “What it comes down to is, what moments matter to them?”