There are few men in football as flamboyant as Paul Pogba and with good reason. Now that he is at Adidas he will be more than just a shirt-seller.
The flashy Frenchman only turned 23 this week but it feels as if he has been at the forefront of Europe’s elite for far longer than his age might suggest. A prized asset of Juventus and one of the most coveted young footballers in the world, it’s not just clubs that have been keen for Pogba’s signature. Adidas and Nike have been courting the young Frenchman for years and now the long rumoured deal with Adidas has been confirmed, While it may not be as lucrative as Lionel Messi’s tie-up, Adidas and Pogba look like a match made in heaven.
It’s understood that part of what swayed the footballer over to the three stripes were the assurances he was given that he would be allowed to leave his mark on the brand rather than it be the other round. Pogba hinted as much when he said “we are united by our passions and values. We have the same vibes on and off the field”. Those “vibes” will be what Adidas gives its football marketing more swagger in its ongoing efforts to be more provocative and in-tune with the evolving culture around the game.
“Paul is one of the most in-demand players in the world at the moment, creating hype on and off the pitch with his inimitable swagger,” said Florian Alt, senior director of global brand communications at Adidas Football. “Paul is an inspiration to young footballers around the world and we are excited for what the future holds.”
Inevitably this will mean relinquishing some creative control, though the brand has shown a willingness to do that if the star has the mass appeal to make the trade-off worthwhile. The success of the Kanye West Yeezy clothing range has unquestionably paid off in the US where it has propelled awareness of the brand. And the collaboration with Pogba will look to recycle some of these lessons; the Juventus midfielder’s creative flair extends far beyond the confines the pitch as was immediately obvious at the 2015 Ballon d'or ceremony.
Pogba represents an ideal fit for Adidas now. He is a master of his craft but more importantly for the brand’s marketers he is the embodiment of individualism which is a huge appeal to young audiences. Adidas has admitted it needs to work harder to reflect how people view and discuss the beautiful game now, bringing personality and dynamism to its marketing that’s been noticeably lacking from parts of its communications in recent years.
Business development director at Pitch, Paul McCormick, described Pogba as “a marketer’s dream who showcases all that is great about the beautiful game – skill, pace, personality and power”.
“By declaring that he has signed for Adidas because they have the same shared ambition as him and will allow him to explore new creative frontiers, the message to his audience is that Adidas is the brand for free-thinking, creative footballers and people.”
Pogba’s appeal with younger audiences will allow Adidas to make the most of what McCormick describes as a “crossover athlete” and will likely lead to many collaborations which explore his interests in sport, music and style.
Alex Coulson, executive director at Sport Industry Group, said the partnership would likely produce a number of "headline grabbing campaigns". He said the brand’s success is rooted in its desire to “find new ways to talk with consumers and in a language they understand”.
Fans saw that with 'There will be haters' a campaign that was built on an in depth knowledge of its target audience's world and was a brave decision to take. "The fact that Adidas was awarded the 2015 Brand of the Year and has five shortlisted entries at this year's BT Sport Industry Awards is no small feat, it's testament to the brand's fresh, creative and daring approach.”
But with Pogba, Adidas had to work hard to secure its star signing. Prime Time Sport’s chief executive, Esteve Calzada, attributed the drawn out negotiations between Adidas and Pogba as “mainly money driven”.
He said: “Mino Raiola, his agent, has been pushing for as much money as possible because it was the right time.”
According to Calzada a combination of factors other than creativity helped formulate the deal.
“He’s youth, playing for a big team, playing in a big league, the Euros approaching and his media appeal mean brands want to associate with him.”
While money is clearly a driving force behind this deal it did not pave the way to the two parties meeting. Brands are becoming increasingly conscious about which sports personalities they align themselves with and the swiftness with which they will drop a major ambassador in light of any negative publicity, such has been the case with Nike and Maria Sharapova, illustrates these increasingly complex relationships.
In Pogba, Adidas has found a fitting partner who echoes the brand's ethos of bold individualism and with that it will continue to be relevant to young audiences keen to feel a sense of individualism in the brands they associate with.