6 things we can learn from Adidas’s Paul Pogba transfer marketing genius-ness

Paul Pogba’s record breaking transfer to Manchester United sparked a frenzy on social media earlier this week, but not maybe for the reasons you would expect.

Quite frankly, we were all bored of the story, the will-he, won’t-he tenterhooks feeling had warn off. It was inevitable. In fact, The Drum speculate whether the deal was tied up month’s ago relating to what happened a few days ago…


In a mish-mash of talent tie ups, British Grime artist Stormzy (“shut up”) released a video featuring both stars; Pogba dancing to a Stormzy track both donning a United shirt. The strapline “first never follows” ties the whole video together. The video was subsequently deleted a short while after release sparking a social media frenzy, with fans desperately trying to hunt down the video and the truth. Latterly of course, United chimed in with their #PogBack content to celebrate the re-arrival of the star.

Adidas fused football and music audiences, tribes identified as crucial to their marketing and created content that got people talking, and talking, and talking. But why is everyone in industry talking about the initiative so much? Here are 6 thoughts, or things we can learn from what Adidas have done?


Owned the moment

Adidas have tapped their talent in a very different way. Ultimately, they have factored their talent’s key moments and integrated into their own calendar of activity. This wasn’t done on the bag of a fag packet. It is either taken months of co-ordinated planning (if you share the viewpoint of The Drum) or an intensive war room scenario. Planning the initiative, co-ordinating the talent and the creation of the content and distribution within a short time frame.

Crucially, they OWNED the moment. It was going to be big news anyway, but Adidas made it theirs. Some clever folk in that building harnessed that opportunity and truly made a story that should have been for Manchester United, one for Adidas. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure this cost Adidas but it is not like United wouldn’t get their moment in the spotlight. Pogba’s transfer would still be for their fans to enjoy and will be for a good time to come.


Structured for agile marketing practice

Even if there was more planning time than meets the eye, Adidas would have had no real control over the signing of the player. Or indeed, whether Pogba himself would go to Manchester United. The release itself, in true social-first format, would have been no feat either.

Essentially, there would be no time to go through arduous red tape, internally, agency-side or with the talent management. Quick turnaround times on content inception, creation and sign off would need to be paramount.

Think about how your team or brand might roll out such a campaign, and then think about all of the layers of approval and interconnections that would have been required to bring it to life. Is that really agile? I suspect, most answers to that question will be a no…


Well-structured tie-ups with their talent which harness branded content

We have worked with brands who have neglected to work even a series of tweets into their talent partnerships in the past. So, it is boggling to think that Adidas would be in a position to release the transfer news before Manchester United would, and what about Stormzy? Why should he be involved?

Adidas have clearly locked down what they get from their talent and in this instance, have also brought to the table ideas that have ticked boxes for everyone. Smart stuff, very, very smart.


Exploited new audiences

I remember someone in the fashion world (with much more authority than I) saying that next year (2016) would be the year of Adidas, not Nike. This was in context of Nike, and specifically Nike Air Max, being the trainer of choice in 2015. The urbanites were airing on the side of Nike over Adidas for sure. My London dwelling pals were all Niked up that’s for sure (contextual evidence, by no means substantial, but you get the point).

What I am getting at is, that Adidas would have been mounting an attack on this audience, one in which Grime is prevalent. An artist like Stormzy is important to tapping into that audience but couple that with riding the tail coat of the Pogba transfer and you have one hell of a swell, and penetration with said audience. Who by the way, whilst might not support United, would still be gripped by the transfer and Pogba’s pending presence in the Premiership.


Let their talent (and their communities) do the work for them

Simply, Adidas weren’t arrogant enough to release the content themselves. They let Stormzy do it for them. And the Snapchat style disappearance of the video after a limited time (contrived, for sure) is absolute genius. It is also symptomatic of an age where content really is short-life and high impact. Why do you think we talk about Snapchat so much?

More than an anything it made the content feel more…


Authentic. Audience-first

The content itself was fantastic. You certainly didn’t feel like there wasn’t an affinity between the two stars that’s for sure. It was still Stormzy’s music at the end of the day, released to his audience by him for his fans. But with the added touch of a level virality he just wouldn’t have achieved on his own. WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN.


Adidas gave something back to both the football fans, the music fans and with heightened impact for those touched in the middle. Ultimately, they produced smart audience-first, social-first content – co-ordinated to an nth and rode a moment.

In the words of Andy Gray, take a bow Adidas, take a bow.

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