Adidas Football Expands #FirstNeverFollows Big Idea Via Pogba-Led Pre-Season ‘Blah Blah Blah’

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Two weeks before the start of the 2016/17 football season, Adidas continues its #FirstNeverFollows idea with a new multi-market campaign, ‘Blah Blah Blah’, led by Paul Pogba and promoting its new boot range.


In addition to the French midfielder star, the campaign, which primarily pushes its X16, Ace16 and Messi16 boots (Pogba himself wears the brand’s new Solar Yellow Ace 16+ PureControl),  also features UK rapper Stormzy as well as a set of Adidas sponsored teams including Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Juventus, Chelsea and Milan).


The idea behind the initiative is that several adidas player endorsers offer ‘defiant responses’ to the traditional pre-season transfer silliness, speculation and gossip.


Thus, players (as well as managers like Jose Mourinho and Zinadine Zidane) from the brand’s six ‘global superpower clubs’ mock the media tittle tattle and state that they will do their talking where it matters the most – on the pitch.


The first teaser content pieces began rolling out from 8 July,



while the core video itself was launched on 30 July and visually blends various media platforms and channels.



The assets carry the brand’s ongoing #FirstNeverFollows hashtag and aims to drive viewers online to ‘Shop the Speed Of Light Pack at


The central spot is supported by a range of assets across Adidas’ digital and social platforms such as or follow @adidasfootball on twitter,



as well as through the player’s own channels – such as to Gareth Bales’ 9m twitter followers and to Benzema’s 4.5m Twitter followers.




Putting Pogba front and centre is not only a clever move as it backs up his starring role in Adidas’ (and France’s) Euro 2016 campaign, but it also leverages the fact that Pogba is at the heart of the off season’s biggest and most written/talked about transfer story – the will he/won’t he go from Juventus to Man Utd saga.


Indeed, the player himself has amplified the campaign enormously with his own teasing tweets, social media hints and references to his own club situation (to his 2.2 million Twitter followers) – thus fueling the very speculation this campaign aims to mock.


For example, does the red cap in this black and white personal Pogba tweet hint at a move to Man Utd?


This is a fun, well timed and well casted, clever campaign crammed full of energy and colour.


But does it finally vault the German sports apparel giant into the same film creative league as fierce rival Nike?


The social statistics would suggest not.


With a solid 150,000 Adidas Football channel YouTube views in first 24 hours, plus 2k retweets and 2k likes – its early engagement metrics are solid.


But still way behind the kind of numbers Nike has racked up with its last blockbuster soccer spot for its Euro 2016 ambush: indeed, Nike’s ‘The Switch’ (see case study) currently boasts 53m + YouTube views on its football channel.


Both the new 2016/17 season ‘Blah Blah Blah’ and the brand’s Euro 2016 activation (see case study) fall neatly into Adidas recently revealed ‘three-pillar 2020 strategy’ that it hopes will reclaim ground lost to rivals Nike and Under Armour (particularly in the USA).


The three pillars are ‘speed’, ‘a six city marketing focus’ and ‘celebrities’.


The strategy spans a focus on ‘speed’ across all parts of the business – including marketing, creation, design, models, sourcing, supply, manufacturing and sales – so that it can react faster to the changing landscape, to consumer taste and to football action and events on the pitch.


Indeed, the company believes that 50% of its sales will be of speed-enabled products by 2020.


‘Our goal is to give consumers what they want when they want it. Speed is one of the most powerful levers for our Group to do so. It will change the way we create, manufacture and distribute our products. It will revolutionise our current business model,’ explains Franck Denglos, vice-president of Adidas’ speed division.


‘Speed will be a key competitive advantage for us as we transform the Adidas Group into the first true fast sports company.’


Adidas is also refocusing its marketing around six major global cities: New York, Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and London.


It believes that because 50% of the global population live in cities and 80% of global GDP is generated in cities, it should invest a disproportional amoung in the six cities that lead the world in football and fashion, trends and advocacy.


‘The influence of global metropolitan areas on trends and brands cannot be overstated. The fate of global brands is decided in global cities. If we want to be successful in the future, we need to win in key cities,’ argues Christopher Williams, vice-president of commercial planning and development.


‘Our focus on key cities enables us to activate our categories in the right areas and engage with communities in the most relevant neighbourhoods. And this then filters down to the rest of the countries.’


Its strategy also includes a closer and more prominent relationship with celebrities and increased ad spend around these partnerships.


As illustrated by its recent high profile partnership with Kanye West and the ‘Yeezy’ line,



as well as Pharrell Williams,



and Stella McCartney.



By developed a wider and deeper collaborative approach with a network of famous athletes, creatives, consumers and other partners as believes it can significantly shape the future of sport and sports culture.


This means giving collaborators better access to internal Adidas tools and support – from access to its archive, designers and developers, as well as its materials, factories and, crucially, its data.


‘We are the first sports company that invites athletes, consumers and partners to be part of our brand,’ says James Carnes, VP of brand strategy creation.


‘Our portfolio of creative influencers and innovative partners such as Kanye West, Stella McCartney, Disney, Parley for the Oceans, Red Bull Media House, BASF and Google offers incredible opportunities for us to leverage our brands, showcase our creative potential and inspire consumers more than any other sports company. Together, we will co-create the future of sports.’


Will this new strategy work?


Is it actually something more than a marketing sound bite?


Time will tell.




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