Redwaan Hossain is the man behind “Från soluppgång till solnedgång” (from sunrise to sunset), Adidas Sweden’s first Ramadan marketing campaign. He reveals why inclusive marketing should be top of mind for brands.
In Sweden, Muslims represent around 8% of the population. That's nearly 1 million people who live and work here, who watch adverts, who want to be reflected in the content they see, and who spend an estimated 1.5 billion SEK during Ramadan.
For those of you who don’t know, Ramadan is a holy month in Islam. It is a time where Muslims are encouraged to participate in extra prayer, increased charity and generosity, and spiritual discipline, including fasting from sunrise to sunset.
I'm Muslim myself and I train a lot. My family has always encouraged me to fast during Ramadan, but I used to see it as an obstacle. A couple of years ago, however, I tried combining fasting with my training — and I was surprised to find that it worked. This personal experience was the starting point for launching our first-ever Ramadan ad campaign at Adidas Sweden.
We teamed up with advertising agency Obeya to be more inclusive. It not only helped us create our Ramadan campaign, but it also sparked an inspiring and educational conversation with our audience about fasting and exercise.
Assembling an inclusive team
I feel very fortunate to work at a company like Adidas, who are very committed to diversity, equality, and inclusivity (DEI). As employees we have access to lots of initiatives, especially in our Nordic markets. For instance there’s a big focus on getting more women in leadership. And there are racial equity, allyship, and various other programmes. They are all designed to create safe spaces for people from different groups and backgrounds.
It's important when you work on topics like this, that you have knowledge of what it is that you're going to communicate, and the audience you are addressing.
This translates into all areas of the business, including our external marketing. For instance, we strongly believe in not only having diverse talent in front of the camera, but we make sure that people behind the scenes are representative and diverse too.
Our Ramadan campaign “Från soluppgång till solnedgång” (from sunrise to sunset), is a perfect example of this.
We partnered with advertising agency Obeya to make sure the campaign would be authentic. Its creative director, Canan Yasar, is Muslim. Another key member of the team was our film director who, as well as being Muslim, was also a professional footballer in Bangladesh. He has first-hand experience of combining fasting and high-performance sports.
“It's important when you work on topics like this, that you have knowledge of what it is that you're going to communicate, and the audience you are addressing. It’s important not to assume things,” explains Yasar. “People assume a lot when it comes to diversity. They're not really digging into it and are a bit scared to ask questions.”
For the ad campaign we also worked with a mixture of professional and non-professional Swedish athletes. Viewers get to see football player Nabil Bahoui, female basketball team Vision Generation Ball, and a young sports enthusiast, all sharing their different experiences of fasting and exercising during Ramadan.
Getting a head start on the conversation
Sharing knowledge and inspiration is everything. Because, as you can see in the video, it's not only Muslim people in a sports team. We wanted to show the community in a team, how you build a team, and how your team can support you whilst you're fasting.
A leading objective for our marketing strategy is to position Adidas as the most inclusive brand in Sweden. Not just within sports, but from all brands. To achieve this, we set measurable goals, including increasing the share of Search as a key indicator of market share growth.
“We wanted to spark conversation,” says Yasar. “As marketers, what we communicate is not always about sales. It is also about taking responsibility and educating people on topics they might not know about. We combined our marketing campaign with PR, encouraging people to talk about exercising and fasting.”
To support our messaging, we gathered advice from different athletes and created a content hub with information about combining training and fasting.
Our main focus was to educate Muslims that they don’t need to choose between fasting and exercising. At the same time, however, the hub allowed us to share inspiration and knowledge to show how non-Muslims can support people training with them.
YouTube was also a key part of our strategy as viewers in Sweden say that it is the video platform with the most diverse content.1
An especially important milestone for me was when Ramadan started, Sweden was playing a really high profile football game against Belgium.
We were able to showcase the video in the stadium. During the game we also had LED screens where we displayed our call to action in both Swedish and Arabic. I think that's the first time we've seen any commercial in the biggest arena in Sweden in Arabic. This was a defining moment of the campaign for me.
Staying ahead of the game
It is so important that people see themselves in advertising. But we were also pleased that we got great measurable results too including a 2% increase in share of Search and therefore a key indicator of market share growth, along with brand awareness:
And most importantly for us, we really sparked conversations. We saw “adidas + Ramadan” appear in our top 20 most searched keywords for the first time. We’re now seeing a higher interest from other brands in Sweden in creating campaigns around Ramadan. We really took the first step as a global brand owning this moment and elevating the conversation of combining fasting and sports training into the mainstream.
Without giving the game away, we're working on 2024’s Ramadan campaign at the moment. Inclusive marketing isn’t a one-off, it’s ongoing work. We’ve just started to scratch the surface with Ramadan campaigns — and who knows what will be next.