How Adidas’ newsrooms create five great pieces of content a week

Adidas has moved from advertising to content marketing. To do this, it built newsrooms in 12 cities globally. Here’s a glimpse at what happened when its marketers started writing news.

Adidas understands the need to produce weekly content rather than just a few ad campaigns a year. ‘Tactical content innovation’ is Adidas’ marketing super power: It measures the effect of its newsrooms around the globe.

Processes and metrics aren’t as sexy as real-time content, but Adidas has put all three in place and will import its innovation tactics into all its marketing.

Real-time marketing is about more than ‘now’ at the world’s second-biggest sportswear business. It zeroes in on telling the bigger brand story rather than tying content to the latest headlines in order to boost the relevance of social communications. There’s no one-size-fits-all brand-building. Adidas created its own places where its marketers can be closest to the consumer-its newsrooms.

Adidas marketers as reporters

Formed for the 2012 London Olympics, Adidas newsrooms operate in 12 cities across the world in the belief that they are where trends start. Marketers in those hubs are internal DJs “on the decks,” independently spinning the brand against cultural shifts without having to wait for approval. They freely interpret global briefs for their cities. Adidas executives realize the business has to publish five great pieces of content a week, not five great ads a year-a fundamental shift in the way Adidas was built.

It’ll take time for that editorial attitude to permeate the business. Once it does, newsrooms will inform every bit of Adidas’ marketing and media plans.

That means newsrooms “control publishing to our website,” as well as “connect to our products at e-commerce”, says creative strategist and digital-experience specialist Kris Ekman. “It’s about seeing that relationship between the content coming out of a newsroom and upticks in sales. It’s not going to be purely PR, social and influence, even though that’s what the newsrooms focus on now.”

A new emphasis on measuring newsroom content at Adidas

Before it can attain that, Adidas needs the structure; Adidas is putting more thought and energy into what content goes out from its newsrooms and how it is measured. Adidas wants to encourage its marketers to think tactically about the metrics they use instead of relying on the same quantifiers all the time.

The push to empower its team embraces the expansion of the newsroom’s guidelines repository—an internal Wikipedia—so that a marketer can access best practices, case studies and guides.

“It’s not just numbers, it’s numbers in relation to content,” explains Ekman. “Let’s tell a story but understand why we’re telling that story and measure it accordingly.”

Influencers vs. Adidas own social channels

Part of Adidas’ measurement conundrum is how it values its influencers. Adidas asks if the celebrities’ reach or the reach of Adidas’ channels is more influential. Can one put a value on a tweet from brand ambassador Kanye West? Gauge West’s effect on the brand in social networks?

This will be more important as co-creation becomes a bigger part of the brand’s editorial output. Globally, Adidas’ marketing leans more on content sourced from its celebrities as well as fans, which will lead to partnerships with influencers in key cities.

Adidas is figuring out what each part of its sprawling ad tech stack does so that it can get rid of platforms that don’t contribute much. Ekman predicts he’ll build a CRM system to give Adidas a single customer view across its platforms.

“This links to how we want to use programmatic advertising to talk to niche audiences,” he claims.

“Imagine our creating a campaign for the 15 people who’ve bought the Messi football boot for the last three years. If we have that data and can match it to the social data, there are many interesting possibilities.”

Big campaign model still relevant

While the newsrooms are key, they aren’t the be-all and end-all. This year’s UEFA European Championship needs big campaigns and an agency. What’s different is the role Adidas’s newsroom marketers play, moving from project managers on briefs to collaboration with their partners on editorial calendars.

The brand’s relation with agency Brilliant Noise is one example; Adidas consults its team on strategy issues instead of asking it to produce content.

“There’ll always be big campaigns,” says Ekman, who sees Adidas’ marketing using social CRM instead of tent-pole campaigns. “Our newsrooms take more execution and production in-house because we must switch to an adapted real-time marketing. If you do everything internally, you don’t have bandwidth and won’t get an external view of your brand.”

Content marketing means getting closer to the customer. For Adidas, newsrooms are the fastest way to do it. Adidas’ marketing had become disjointed; these hubs allow it to promote new products at a much faster pace. The urgency stems from Adidas’ four-year struggle to meet investors’ expectations as Nike and Under Armor outpaced its growth.

“The line between organic and promoted content is blurring; the experience generated is not so different. It sets us up to ask the question ‘are you prepared to support this?’ Content marketing isn’t just about firing up a Twitter account. It takes more logistics to succeed.”

A version of this article originally appeared on The Drum.

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