A Glitch in the System


Wherever there is communication, there are branded communications.  Even as advertisers find novel ways to connect through new platforms, consumers are still suffering from advertising fatigue. So how are brands changing tactics to combat the effects of messaging burnout?

Through social media, Adidas have begun to use influencer marketing at scale. But rather than using high-profile names, who risk bringing with them the staid weariness of advertising, they are empowering smaller players, established within their own communities, to maximise their reach.

Called ‘Tango Squads’, these grassroots influencers are tied together through WhatsApp, Instagram and other social sites, and receive content direct from Adidas. As Marketing Week reports, ‘each group is managed by an Adidas in-house team, who share exclusive content and new products with the group, before they are even unveiled on Adidas’ Twitter or Facebook channels.’ The groups go on to share content amongst their friends, spreading the branded communications far and wide, all under the guise of friendly conversation.

Florian Alt, senior director of global brand communications at Adidas, has explained the thinking behind the strategy.

“They are talking in a private messaging environment. If it comes as a referral from your mate, you’re much more likely to pick it up than if it comes from a brand.”

Most recently, Adidas have activated their football obsessed teen fan base with the launch of their new boots, the Glitch. Showing their commitment to their newly adopted marketing approach, the Glitch is the first ever new football boot silo to break purely through social.

adidas glitch boot.png

The Adidas Glitch Boot breaking on Instagram

Although the boot has not yet been given a formal release date and only teasers have appeared on Adidas’s website, searching for the silo on YouTube already produces 78,000 hits. Images of the boots have appeared en-mass online before it has even been spotted on pitch. Adidas don’t even to appear to have been particularly selective with who has received product samples; YouTube users with as little as 93 YouTube followers and no Instagram account have received early access to the product to produce reviews. For the most part though, it is football freestylers and lifestylers, well established in their social communities with a minimum of 2 to 3k followers, who have been chosen. This has the dual effect of both spreading the product far and wide, and also of creating an ‘I want in’ feeling for those not selected so far.

The unique campaign shape also mirrors the inventivness of the product itself: the Glitch has changeable components, which allow users to swap the upper, inner and soleplate components. It is a boot for creators, being advertised by creators. Sam Handy, Vice President of Design at Adidas, has explained the process in depth.

“It’s all a work in progress right now; we’re going to work with a small group of kids in London who have been testing the boot and we’re going to create the next iterations with them based on live input. We’re going to build it for them and ask the questions: ‘What do you want’? How do you want to interact with it? How do we reflect your world?’ That’s a very different way of doing things ― it’s a super human way of creating product.”



Reviews have surfaced before the boot has been officially launched.

The launch is evidence in action of Adidas’s new influencer model, a movement away from a select few, high ranking professionals (like Nike’s ‘Elite Squad’) to a wider base of smaller, but hyper connected and ‘purer’ (in the sense of unaffected by the wariness around advertising) influencers. The campaign also works in parallel with Adidas’s current above the line campaign, the ‘I’m Here to Create’ series, which features Paul Pogba, Lionel Messi and other sporting stars beyond the football world.

On a wider playing field, the strategy is endemic of marketers growing awareness of ‘dark social’ marketing. As defined by analytics agency Simply Measured, ‘dark social’ is traffic that originated from the share of a URL, but is marked as direct traffic in analytics tools’. With mobile and messengers now so powerful, content can be shared peer to peer in ways which fall under the radar of observation tools.  Importantly, as insight agency RadiumOne’s latest figures show, globally 84 per cent of all sharing is happening in forms like this, outside of public social networks. Adidas have demonstrated an awareness of this, and have mobilised their fans around it.

The new Adidas Glitch football boots – disruptive in both name and nature, and symptomatic of a new marketing model?


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