EMBRACING THE ERA OF CULTURAL CREATIVITY AND AGILITY

Now that we have learned to cope with the pandemic uncertainties and the social unrest in our lives, I thought I would stop to reflect on the key learnings from this experience.

For me, there is no better way than to share the journey and reflections in leading the #ReadyForSport brand campaign for adidas. This is by far, the greatest and the hardest professional experience I have ever had, challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries in re-imaging the launch playbook.

Not to forget, all during the pandemic with a zero-based budget!

The story you will read has only been possible because of the power of the AMAZING creative talent we have in the team. This project is the best example of true teamwork and operational leadership in engaging a highly complex matrix organization across all functions and markets.

In August, we launched the adidas’ Ready For Sport / Anthem Film as the pinnacle expression and celebration of the professional leagues' return worldwide. The Anthem Film (watch Here) is an open invitation for all to live and experience the transformative power of sport to change people’s lives.

As a sport’s brand, we decided to open with a thought-provoking statement to challenge our consumers: Sport is not the answer.

While it is not the answer, it symbolizes joy, optimism, and resilience and can empower you to move on and find your truth, leapfrogging the world into a brighter future — and change lives.

During the story arc of the film, the consumer then understands that while Sport is not the answer, it is a platform for self-expression, and when told through the voice of our athletes, it becomes a positive force for cultural change.

The film is a powerful brand statement and the best expression of who we are today, and here’s why it’s READY FOR SPORT has been so successful.​

However, taking a few steps may help you understand how we got here and share with you the most. So, let’s go back down in memory lane with me for just a few more paragraphs.

THE BEGINNING​: A BRAVE NEW WORLD

March 2020 — COVID-19 means the world is on pause. After successfully uniting adidas, our athletes, and audiences under the Ready For Sport | Hype Film (watch HERE) launch, life slowly starts to establish a new normal.

A new normal where a lot has changed and more change is still to come. But, no one knew what laid ahead of us. We have officially entered the new age of cultural creativity.

We’ve learned to appreciate the small things that we took for granted and start to reconsider our priorities for the future. The lockdown and the economic pressure not only fundamentally transformed our consumers’ world but confronted us with new parameters to how we live our lives.

The lines between performance and lifestyle have blurred!

As we moved into full lockdown, our teams were asked to rethink quickly and pivot from a product campaign to finding a way of bringing all business units together under one brand narrative.

For this to happen, we had to shift the thinking to a more entrepreneurial and scrappy mindset to overcome all restrictions: access to funds, time to create, and people.

We then decided to give the creative power and co-create the story with our athletes and consumers. And as you can imagine, none of this would have been possible because we have a real, authentic, and empowering creative partnership with our lead creative agency, Iris Worldwide.

So, we pulled the curtains behind the world of our athletes and consumers. For the first 15 days, our teams embarked on a listening and discovery journey to better understand what has changed in their needs and lives.

During the co-creative Zoom panels with our consumers, we learned very quickly that sport’s role had changed for them. Especially when asked what are they getting ready for? Consumers told us the following …

“We missed everything sport could give us, winning, losing, the community, but more importantly, we realized that sport isn’t just something you do. It’s part of who we are.”

The insights above showed our teams that sport could be the pulse of humanity, a platform that brings the world closer together through joy, optimist, and resilience.

The insight became our starting point and the foundation of our communication platform. Then comes my favorite question I love challenging the team when we land on real insight.

So, what are we going to do with this insight?

How are we going to translate this insight into actions while delivering a compelling brand narrative? Well, the key is to keep things simple. We grounded the approach for the entire campaign on the following creative direction below.

Learning from the consumer’s voice is what we do in every campaign because at the end of the day — they decide, every day! You can also listen to my conversation with Mark Schaefer about how we cracked the creative idea by giving the consumers creative power.

HERO THE HUMAN, NOT THE HERO ​​​​

Our goal was not to solve the creative problem with “scripts” before any conversation with athletes.

No scripted narrative, but instead finding the meaningful personal insights focusing on what our athletes missed about sport. The good, the bad, and what makes them the greatest of all time!

For every story, we had a 90 minutes Zoom session with the greatest athletes in the world. An innovative way of creating deeply personal stories, and from these conversations, we crafted each episode’s narrative. From Lionel Messi | The Gift to Patrick Mahomes | Playing For Change and our adidas Runners' incredible voices | Chasing Meaning.

Finishing off with the highest peak of the consumer journey with the 60-second Anthem Film narrated by South African rugby icon Siya Kolisi, who made history as the first Black man to lead as captain the South African team 129 years of rugby to a World Cup Championship in 2019.

  • READY FOR SPORT as a communication platform is a case study of agility, speed, and collaboration: a true testament of the power of our​ brand — when we come together as one team. This work’s creative guiding principle was to hero the human, not the hero, through a co-created athlete-led story.
  • READY FOR SPORT allowed our consumers to connect with the person behind the star athlete. Creating inspiring stories with a personal and emotional universal truth, regardless of the sport. For example, Xander Schauffele’s PGA Tour Golfer, insight was built on “The Rush of Competition” — who doesn’t love a good rush (watch Here).
  • READY FOR SPORT brought consumers closer to their heroes by making it contextually relevant. In each episode, one athlete shares their journey back into sports, contemplating what sport means to each athlete.

The campaign celebrated the power of sport as a spark of joy, resilience, and optimism and has served as a pulse of humanity through the lockdown.

​NEW WAYS OF GAINING VISIBILITY

When reflecting on this campaign’s impact, we can see that the insights below were the biggest drivers of success. Let’s look a bit closer at how each of them can be translated into performance indicators.

  • EPISODIC STORYTELLING ARE ENGAGING: +503 million views as the brand’s highest consumer interactions with more than +61 million engagement across all brand channels.
  • POWER OF THE REAL HEROES: the first-ever exclusive employee launch, elevating our people as the most authentic voices of the brand with 1,678 employees posting the Hype Film, delivering 1.8 million organic views in the first five days of the campaign.
  • TELL HUMAN STORIES. PEOPLE WILL LOVE YOU: +75% positive sentiment and mentions across social media channels. Consumers watched on average view duration of 92% of “The Anthem Film” — which indicates 55 seconds out of 60 seconds of completion.
  • ALL ROADS LEADS TO ECOM: driving +8.8 million total traffic, we have seen a dramatically higher accelerated revenue growth in halo sales in 3 months of the campaign, with +38% higher AOV vs. brand average.
  • GENERATING HIGH-QUALITY TRAFFIC: 86% of all consumers who landed on adidas.com/readyforsport clicked on at least (2) more buttons on the page, leading to a 7.2% conversion rate (vs. 4.7% brand average).

If you love sports, follow the series, re-discover your favorite and share your personal experience of how the sport’s role has changed for you this year.

Click HERE to see all the episodes!

#READYFORSPORT

CMO at Saucony | Executive Board Member at Erwin Center For Brand Communications | Adjunct Professor at Clemson University.