At editorial meetings in Herzogenaurach, Rob Hughes talks over what stories to publish each day with his colleagues.
But Mr. Hughes isn’t editor of the town’s local newspaper. His title is “Director PR and Social” in Adidas’ soccer division, which makes him something akin to head of news at one of the most important divisions in the sporting goods company.
Adidas’ headquarters are in Herzogenaurach, a small town outside Nuremberg. But the shoemaker updates its customers about the brand around the clock, broadcasting out of nine corporate newsrooms, from Moscow to Tokyo to Rio. More than just pure PR, the stories can have quite a bit of information because so many stars and top clubs have contracts with the company.
Recently, for example, Mr. Hughes’ reporters took a behind-the-scenes look at Spanish soccer club Real Madrid. After three days, more than 160,000 Internet users had viewed the 13-minute-long video. Adidas launches films on YouTube, tweets newsy items on Twitter, posts photos on Instagram, or reports items on Facebook. “We reach many more customers than before,” said Nicole Vollebregt, a Canadian who is responsible for digital marketing at Adidas.
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The brand wants to reach young trendsetters between the ages of 14 and 19 – and isn’t sitting around waiting for news to roll in. “We’re always planning six months in advance,” said Ms. Vollebregt. Many films are made but only run when the timing is right. Such as recently, when the start of a soccer match had to be delayed because of flooding on the pitch. Adidas told the fans and also showed a video showing how cleats and balls are tested in water.
The many videos that Mr. Hughes and his reporter colleagues put on the Internet are not, of course, an end in themselves.
“That is the right step in the right direction,” said Hartmut Heinrich, from the management consulting firm Mistress Technologies in Hamburg. Adidas is under a lot of pressure. Nike, the global market leader, is growing stronger. Adidas is also suffering because of the crisis in Russia, having invested more there than any other sporting goods brand.
That’s why Adidas needs to win over young people on the Internet. Sports industry expert Mr. Heinrich said it isn’t surprising that Nike is ahead in its own home market, the United States. “Nevertheless, Nike still has a problem in translation and does not adapt well to the German market,” he said.
Using editorial content about sports to reach customers isn’t new. The Austrian energy drinks maker Red Bull invests heavily in video, the web and a glossy magazine.
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Now, more sporting goods makers are trying out social media to raise awareness of their brands – and reshaping the industry. “The marketing is becoming more and more complex,” said Rolf Schmid, CEO of the mountaineering goods brand Mammut Sports. “People still make traditional catalogs, flyers and TV ads, and go to trade fairs,” he said. “And then comes the Internet. All that costs a lot of money.”
But it is crucial for the companies to be able to offer their own films and texts. Last summer, Mammut featured elaborate mountain-climbing films made with a 360-degree camera. That went down well with Alpine mountain climbers. “It’s important the stories are authentic,” said Mr. Schmid. In newspaper newsrooms, much is decided by instinct, whereas that is not the case in the sporting industry content world. “What we do is always underpinned by data analysis,” said Florian Bernhard.
He is a “digital analyst” at Adidas and evaluates exactly what people like to purchase. Mr. Bernhard said: “Should we use only one photo or several to deliver a story? Because of our surveys, we can predict in advance what will be better received.”
The many videos that Mr. Hughes and his reporter colleagues put on the Internet are not, of course, an end in themselves. Positive comments are one thing, but the effort has to pay off.
At the end of the day, it’s less about clicks; Adidas wants to sell as many athletic shoes as possible.
Joachim Hofer covers the sporting industry for Handelsblatt. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org