Adidas has claimed it is the most shareable brand amongst its fiercest rivals and fellow Euro 2016 sponsors over the summer of football, citing its dominance of shares as the best gauge of its performance on social media.
Shares or so-called vanity metrics are often deemed superfluous but Adidas believes they are good proxy for quality of a sponsorship campaign. People are only ever going to share content if it’s something they believe in and so what counts as a vanity metric depends only on what constitutes success. For the sportswear brand, success is being the most talked about by young football fans, a goal its claiming as the football season comes to a close.
A share is a seal of approval
According to its own analysis, the sportswear brand generated over 1.6m shares across Twitter, (retweets), Facebook (shares), YouTube (direct shares and shares to other social platforms), Instagram (user tags) and online media (shares to social platforms) between the Champions League final, the Copa America and the Euros 2016 tournaments.
Most of that engagement came during the latter (1.1m), when Adidas said it dominated the daily share of volume for 27 of 30 days of the event, which yielded 1.17m shares – “more than twice the number of the next biggest brand". Nike, Puma, Under Armour, Coca-Cola and the other Euro sponsors were the advertisers the German business claimed to outmuscle over the last two months.
Some 17 accounts worldwide were responsible for driving that volume, though there was no global paid support, with just small pockets of spend in certain key markets. All of which meant that around 95 per cent of the engagement was organic, the business said.
“A ‘like’ is a seal of approval in social currency terms so it's not a surprise to see the Adidas campaign come first amongst the Euro 2016 social brand advertisers in the eyes of many,” said Mike Litman, chief executive of social video analytics business Burst Insights.
The positive association of being the kit maker for some of the tournament’s most popular teams (Wales) and sponsors of some of its biggest players (Paul Pogba) saw the shareability of Adidas’ content swell markedly during the matches. From GIFS to short video clips, the brand sliced and diced its content in real-time in order to make sure that everything was tailored to each specific channel. All this was done under the brand’s #FirstNeverFollows campaign which saw it apply a “boots blitz” strategy according to Litman, made up of a high volume of short social video content.
Such was the campaign’s popularity that Adidas’ share of voice, in terms of hashtag usage, was seven times higher than the next best brand, it claimed. It wasn’t just the most shareable campaign, with some 685,000 hashtag mentions across Instagram and Twitter over the month-long event making it the most visible brand too.
What is the value of social media engagement?
“Essentially, it’s about creating a deeper engagement with our consumer,” said a spokesman of the company’s focus on measuring shares as the most valuable form of consumer interaction on social media.
The challenge for Adidas is understanding that deeper engagement on dark social hotspots like WhatsApp and Snapchat. Both are platforms the brand tested this summer and yet neither can be measured (yet) other than the growth of its follower base, which in the case of Snapchat doubled after it let the Spanish team take it over
“As a brand, we always try to create a conversation rather than just talking at people,” continued the spokesman. “So, by measuring shares we’re seeing how consumers are interacting with - and talking about - our content. We will also engage with their conversation so they feel even more part of what we’re doing.”
Adidas’ dominance of the brand chatter around the tournament was backed by Burst Insights, which found it upped its retweet and like engagement scores by 100 per cent and 112 per cent respectively during the tournament compared to its previous all-time bests. Interestingly, the amount Adidas posted to social for the Euros equated to around 5 per cent of all the posts it has published.
Conversely, a separate study from digital agency WePlay (see above) found that Adidas was out-muscled three to one by Orange, which boasted 663,985 mentions of #OrangeSponsorsYou hashtag during the Euros compared to 226,515 for #FirstNeverFollows. Furthermore, another study by Way to Blue (see below) saw the brand’s hashtag mentions worldwide peak during the quarter-finals and semi-finals before dropping sharply during the final.
“In pursuing a qualitative metric, like most shareable, the results imply that Adidas’ content featuring the ‘First Never Follows’ messaging has resonated on a deeper, more meaningful level,” said Adidas senior director of global brand communications for football, Florian Alt:
“Our products and strong relationships with our assets set us apart from the competition, driving shareability and cementing our position as the number one football brand.”
It’s hard to disagree with Florian, said Adam Rubins, chief executive of Way to Blue’s UK business.
“’First Never Follows’ was an immensely creative campaign with strong shareability and cut through. Success though does need to be measured against objectives and volume of likes or shares is only one way to measure success. There is a lot of talk around the value of engagement versus views. Ultimately you need both which this got but this still needs to be weighted against objectives. Is the objective to be the number one brand in football? Is the objective to raise brand affinity amongst its key demographic? Or is the objective product sales?
“Ultimately like any campaign, there would have been significant budget behind this, and the high volume of content may be what drove volume of shares as opposed to the high share-ability of each individual piece of content. Interestingly, hashtag mentions peaked on the day of key games and dropped when the football agenda was quieter. Even more interesting, it dipped during the final," he said.
Adidas is a brand well known for being brave when it comes to marketing and has made recent moves to up its content production skillset by setting up newsrooms in its key cities. The challenge now for the brand to turn that audience engagement into commercial return by taking them on a structured content journey.
By doing so, said Scott McLean, chief operating officer at the Intelligent Marketing Institute, the “soft metrics of shared content will be inextricably linked to the harder metrics of journey progression and attribution to sale”.
“It would be a shame to think that another great summer of sport is going to pass us by where the investment brands such as Adidas are making are not connected or reported alongside commercial return,” he added.