Adidas’s venture into the underground brings branding to new depths

Over the past few months, Adidas have been quietly working on their marketing strategy.

We’ve already seen their attempts over the European Championships this summer, and also their attempts to make waves on ‘dark social’, both to engage with their audience on a level that is much tougher to track than other social media and to create a buzz that feels more genuine than fabricated.

The last point, about creating a genuine buzz, is probably the most important one, though.

Creating shareable content around the European Championships and using their sponsored athletes to a greater degree is a smart strategy: not only do you make the most out of the money you’re spending to actually sponsor those athletes, but you also get access to their audience on social media as well as your own, allowing you a much greater – and a more loyal, attentive – reach.

But that’s not really enough for the German sportswear giant. It’s one thing to make videos for social media that can create a buzz, but it’s an entirely different thing to see others talking about you without the invisible hand of the marketing department directing the conversation.

And that’s what Adidas seem to be trying to do at the moment.

The experiment with WhatsApp marketing – that is, their ‘dark social’ campaign – seeks to bring together a community of influencers who form a sort of a club. A club that others want to be a part of – and it’s that Fear Of Missing Out, that desire to be a part of something cool, that drives the engagement. Or so they hope.

Adidas’s latest venture into the depths of teenage FOMO comes in the form of their new football boots, the Glitch range, which offers its users the chance to customise their own football boots by changing the outer design.

An inner shoe part and an outer vanity section, available in various different designs, can be interchanged seamlessly, allowing customers to collect all the different parts and change them depending on how they feel that particular day.

What’s more interesting than the actual boot – though we do love the concept from an aesthetic point of view, too – is the overarching strategy that Adidas seem to be employing.

They seem to be making a big deal of two things. One is their own attempt at marketing their brand as being somehow bespoke and premium: these boots are only available to a certain club, membership of which is sanctioned by invitation only. The second is the sense of community fostered by the approach.

The new boots, for example, are ‘launched in London’, or as the above Tweet notes, ‘coming soon to London’.

The idea plays on a sense of identity and community that already exists in their audience, especially as football fans (and so, presumably, footballers too) value loyalty – to their club – and community – to their fellow supporters – very highly. Everyone values those things highly, of course. But in terms of the hierarchy of things that football values about its own sport, those two are very high up on the list. Coming soon right into the heart of your social group – and by that, we mean your WhatsApp group.


It’s easy to look on something like that as being sinister, an attempt to delve into the very heart of human interaction. But there’s also something nice about a brand trying to foster a sense of community around sport, whilst also trying to play up individuality and self-expression, which is in the very nature of their customisable product.

After all, these are the two central – if competing – pillars of football as a sport: it is at once about the individual and also about the collective. And both the boots and the marketing strategy seem to underpin that.

It will just be interesting to see what’s next on Adidas’s attempt to bring marketing into the realm of the everyday – possibly making both their athletes and their customers do their marketing for them?

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 480 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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