Ad-ditional Thinking

I recently watched the Adidas Boot Theft viral campaign again, which left me with mixed feelings.  It was the campaign where seven athletes had their footwear “stolen” from Adidas HQ –

I liked the fact Adidas had the balls (excuse the pun) to engage in social media as definitively as rivals like Nike have done, as this is pretty much a first time for them on a global front.  I liked that they chose to work with a renowned social media-orientated agency like We Are Social. Obviously, I would have preferred if it were my agency Lucre Social they were working with – then again, who wouldn’t? – and their chosen agency has done some great work.

What I wasn’t so keen on was the lack of confidence at the heart of the campaign, which was evident in three areas:

Quirkiness ahead of immersive story-telling

It is not incumbent on massively well-known brands to show they “get” social media by coming up with “quirky” executions.  I feel a failure to recognise this fact is the reason why an ultimately flawed conceit of a pseudo “robbery” video passed through the sense-checkers. The problem was that the viral video could not decide if it was trying to be a real attempt at a robbery caught on camera, or not.  It did not use the type of CCTV camera shots that – even if not ultimately believed by fans to be authentic – could at least allow the willing suspension of disbelief.  Nor could it decide if it was simply a transparent teaser for a treasure hunt competition.  As neither fish nor fowl, it relied on fans playing along despite a lack of effort to make it look real on one hand, and on the other, a lack of honest pride in saying it was simply a snazzy promo video for a competition.

Jessica Ennis: wrong UK talent choice for the audience


Jessica Who?  Yes, one of the two UK stars who had their shoes “stolen” is the gold medal-winning heptathelete Jessica Ennis, but the core audience likely to take part in the treasure hunt activity is likely to be ten to sixteen-year-old boys.  As much as they should have heard of Jessica Ennis, they probably haven’t, so the urge to locate her shoes isn’t going to be high. Now footballers are another matter: you tell a young British lad to find Jermaine Defoe (the other star) or Theo Walcott’s boots – well, that’s a different story.  The Italian kids get Messi’s shoes to hunt for whilst the UK kids get Defoe and Ennis, and it just doesn’t compare on the cool stakes.


The “So What” factor

The athletes shoes have been stolen and… the stakes simply aren’t high enough to deeply engage.  If you showed a video of the athletes genuinely getting screwed over because their shoes were stolen (eg. a lucky pair of boots Robin van Persie wore when he scored his only Arsenal hat-trick), you would get millions caring, not thousands. But let’s face it, there are no consequences to athletes having their newest pair of Adidas trainers stolen. The teenage target audience know this as well as anyone else.

Then go on big mouth, what would you have done?

OK, it depends what Adidas had asked to be conveyed via the campaign brief, but… I presume it was to showcase its international athlete endorsements, as well as to create mass engagement online around Adidas and the adizero Speed Clinics.

So I would have constructed a campaign around the sense of everyone getting behind Adidas as a way of supporting the various countries’ stars in their upcoming competitive sporting events, where they would be wearing the latest shoes.  For example, using social media tools to engage youngsters with the chance to indirectly coach the international athletes before – or during – a key event.  The best kid coaches don’t have to be “fast” or find shoes, they just have to love their sport and be passionate about helping their sporting stars achieve success. If Adidas wants a viral video teens will want to engage with, then make one of the hero format (created by the Swedish Tackfilm), where kids can insert themselves in a video where they coach their heroes.   one where they become Paulo Maldini, shouting from the sidelines; or Andy Murray’s coach giving him a talk; while he sits down between sets. This would be eminently shareable and involves true aspiration, rather than a highly aspirational brand trying to do quirky.

But I’m sure with the mass support Adidas could potentially wield online, even flawed campaigns can deliver massive ROIs, but you might as well aim to create great campaigns instead of just good ones.


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