The new power of collaboration: How teamwork and insights help Adidas tell stronger stories

October 2018

How important is collaboration to Adidas North America? So important that the word is painted on the walls of its Portland headquarters. The global sports brand encourages its teams to work and play together, whether that’s at the on-campus football pitch and fitness centre or in the Maker Lab, where any employee can use machines, computers or physical materials to prototype products and unleash their creativity.

For the marketing group, collaboration is more than writing on the walls. They’ve taken a fresh approach to consumer insights by combining several of their teams – from brand marketing and e-commerce to retail and product marketing – to ensure they work together to build relevant messages for all touch points.

Adidas marketers share consumer insights and use budgets more effectively to improve their reach to consumers and make a real business impact. Here’s how they work together.

1. Relevant storytelling

“We believe that, through sport, we have the power to change lives,” says Kelly Olmstead, VP of Brand Activation for North America at Adidas. “We recognise that athletes are about much more than on-field performance and that we also can enable creativity in the streets and in sound studios.

“More than ever before, data is driving the stories we tell, when we tell them, and how they resonate with our consumers.”

“It’s really important for us to use data and the digital space to understand what our consumers are listening to, what they’re looking at, what’s inspiring them. More than ever before, data is driving the stories we tell, when we tell them and how they resonate with our consumers.”

When it came to the campaign for the women’s running shoe Ultraboost X, Adidas worked off the insight that women wanted to see more of what made the product unique. After all, the original Ultraboost shoe was positioned as “the greatest running shoe ever” when it launched.

The digital marketing team tailored creative to provide multiple options, from more brand-focused inspirational visuals to ones that zoomed in on unique product features. How was this new model custom-made for women? The ad creative initially shown to consumers featured women running in the product, but as shoppers indicated they were further along in their journey, ads featured just the product itself.

2. Consistent media and messaging

“Consistency is a unique challenge for brand marketing today, because there are so many touch points and interactions that consumers expect to have with the brand,” says Olmstead. “You have to focus on what’s that central message or even, more importantly, what feeling do you want to deliver as a brand. For us, that’s creativity.”

And for Adidas, creativity is both their brand message and their approach. Another insight that informed the team’s strategy was that sequential messaging and the right creative would help move people from browsing to buying. Brand and e-commerce teams collaborated to adjust Ultraboost X campaign creative and calls to action to drive brand awareness (“Explore now”), product consideration (“Learn more”) and, eventually, a purchase (“Shop now”).

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This collaborative marketing approach led to remarkable results. People who received the “Shop now” e-commerce-focused ads in addition to the “Explore now” brand ads were 75X more likely to convert than those who only saw the brand message. Adidas credits the improvement to consistent messaging and a strong connection between brand and performance teams.

Because the close collaboration between the teams led to such strong results for Ultraboost X, Adidas has carried that approach forwards. Now, the marketing organisation ensures that brand and e-commerce teams work closely together to drive consistency across creative and messaging on all campaigns.

3.  Continued testing and learning

Adidas has learned that being truly relevant not only calls for the right messaging, but the right timing. Testing hypotheses and sharing insights across different parts of the marketing organisation helps Adidas keep learning and improving.

“Data gives us a real-time listening tool that shows us, ‘Is what we’re saying mattering to our consumers? Is it resonating?’” says Olmstead. “We are finding that we know very quickly if something is working, or if it’s not, and we can react appropriately.”

The initial Ultraboost X campaign resulted in a stronger planning effort between brand and e-commerce teams when it came time for spring/summer initiatives for the women’s running shoe. Adidas conducted tests to understand how many brand ads should be delivered before people saw a product-focused message.

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Adidas learned that much like its marketing teams, brand and e-commerce ads work better together. People who were exposed to both the brand and product-focused ad creative were 102% more likely to purchase an Ultraboost X product than those who only saw a product ad. “Ultimately, we saw a huge movement in terms of the level of engagement, and then, conversion,” says Olmstead.

To ensure everyone continues to collaborate around a shared purpose, Adidas marketing teams now start their meetings with a close look at the latest numbers and consumer insights. “It’s helped us to ensure that we’re very focused on what we’re trying to achieve. We’re making progress, and we’re going in the right direction,” Olmstead said.

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