A Shoe Drops: Adidas Going All Digital

Last week, Adidas made some news when it disclosed it’s changing its focus to advertising away from television and toward digital. The reason is easy enough to guess: Digital, and specifically mobile, is where the young people are going and those are the feet Adidas wants to attract.

It seems, at least to some extent, everybody is doing something like that, despite the fact that hundreds of millions of people still watch televisions more than they watch their smartphones.

Cognitively it must not seem like it.

Smartphone users seems to pay attention to the video they see digitally. TV always has had that passive thing going for it, which seemed like a good way to receive a sales pitch. Digital offers more ways to make those pitches seem interesting, probably, I think, because they’re shorter.

Also, it’s been well-established that even when you’re watching TV, when the ads come by, you’re busy on your cell phone.



None of this is 100% accurate, though digital’s overwhelming desirability is often stated without any shades of doubt.  “It's clear the younger consumer engages with us predominantly over the mobile device. Digital engagement is key for us — you don't see any TV advertising any more," Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted told CNBC.

Business Insider points out this Adidas abandonment of television advertising didn’t come out of the blue. In an earlier letter to shareholders, Rorsted wrote: "A strategic topic that will transform our company over the next years is digital. Digital touches our company at every point along the value stream ... Growing our digital capabilities will ultimately also help us do a better job on margin enhancement."

So much of a what an athletic shoe does to promote itself is not contained in a commercial. It’s presented by athletes on places like Whistle Sports, where Adidas has had a major presence for years.

Way back--three years ago--a research company tabulated that during the World Cup Adidas grabbed more than 1.5 million mentions on social media, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and news sites. Most of them happened with the Adidas hashtag, #allin.

And that was back in 2014, when digital, social and smartphone culture was less mature than that calendar date would indicate.

The trend continues, and it seems to me, every time a young person sees those stupid Fox Sports graphics featuring metal-clad robo-athletes, it loses another fan. Sports may be richer and more popular than ever, but there is evidence “the TV experience” turns off millennials.

The Web site Campaign cites the words of James Kirkham of sports media channel Copa 90, who says: "Sports marketing in 2017-2018 is an exciting mess. An elegant chaos.”

He uses Snapchat as an example. “It is raw and real and absolutely of the moment, so the perfect contrast to overly stage managed or manicured content as previously existed.”  

That kind of aesthetic is served best digitally: Portable, short, unglitzy, just-the-action. That seems to be where Adidas is going. It’s not TV even if most of it is on TV.

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