Adidas Urges Fans To #Unfollow Messi And Forge Their Own Path

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Adidas’ star athlete ambassador Lionel Messi is the perhaps the world’s greatest player of the world’s biggest sport – maybe even the best there has ever been – but the sportswear giant’s new campaign is urging fans to ‘Unfollow’ him.


The advice was first teased on social media,




before the German sports apparel behemoth’s launched the latest spot in its ‘Sport15’ campaign featuring the four-time Ballon d’Or winner and encouraging supporters to unfollow him and the rest of their idols and focus on forging their own path.


The TVC is narrated by a Messi-loving supporter who describes ‘My Hero, My Idol’ while the creative features shots of fanatics wearing Messi shirts and even getting Messi tattoos.


Ultimately the narrator concludes – ‘I Am Not You’.



This latest ad is part of Adidas ongoing, wider campaign that aims to encourage consumers to find their own personal path to greatness.


This initiative was launched at the beginning of August, leveraging excitement around the start of the new European soccer season, with a commercial called ‘Create Your Own Game’.


This spot features several other Adidas endorsers – including Gareth Bale, Thomas Müller, James Rodríguez and Mesut Oezil – and first introduced the ‘unfollow’ message with copy urging ‘Your heroes are now your competition. Don’t just follow; go out and create your own game.’



Adidas work is based around the idea that ‘the game played on streets, pitches and parks across the world is about making your own impact, about seeing what you want and taking it. Learn how to play like your heroes, but then go out and create something new.’


The campaign continues Adidas’ more aggressive marketing push based around highlighting athlete passion, first announced back in February 2015, and spearheaded by work produced in harness with agency 72andSunny.




For those worried about Messi’s social media future, fret not as we feel Messi’s accounts will be just fine.


Yet sponsors, of course, typically work in harness with their endorsers to increase the social media following of their athlete ambassadors.


After all, the bigger their reach, the more they can amplify their sportswear partner’s marketing.


So why is Adidas doing the exact opposite?


It’s not a simple case of applying the ‘when everyone else zigs, then zag’ marketing mantra.


The trick behind this campaign and the reason why Adidas is able to run such a campaign is that Messi himself, being relatively slow (or personally disinterested or disciplined) to join Twitter, so it was his sportswear sponsor that actually set up his social platforms for him.


Indeed, the Adidas channel only began in January 2013.


While the official @TeamMessi account has 1.3 million followers (and its Facebook page has over 7 million ‘likes’), Leo’s great footballing rival Christiano Ronaldo may not have as many Ballon d’Ors but he has a much greater social media following.


@Cristiano has more than 37 million Twitter ‘followers’ and a staggering 106 million Facebook ‘likes’ – and that is his personal following to leverage rather than the property of his equipment partner Nike.


Thus Nike wouldn’t dare and wouldn’t be able to do anything similar with its top football ambassador.


This work reflects the recent shift in how Adidas communicates as seeks to carry out its self-stated mission of being the world’s best sports brand.


This new approach is based around the idea that in a world that is full of followers, Adidas wants to reach out and support those bold enough to stand out, to be themselves, to lead.


The campaign is pitched as a call to arms and to individual expression for those who defy the norm.




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