Adidas’ media savvy efforts to finally unveil the world's most expensive footballer, Paul Pogba, as a Manchester United player were foiled last night when a United fan tweeted an image of a smiling Pogba standing in front of washing machines with the club's laundry ladies.
Adidas had been teasing Paul Pogba’s long expected return to Manchester United for weeks now and had prepared for the official announcement with a slick video featuring popular grime rapper Stormzy appearing alongside Pogba.
The news was announced by the Premier League club and Adidas just after midnight in the UK, with a slew of photos showing the 23 year-old Frenchman in more costume changes than a Beyoncé concert.
That was old news by that point though, not just because the signing had been a certainty for a number of days, but because of a Manchester United fan named Chris Grimes.
Hours before either the club or Adidas launched their plethora of well-planned images and videos confirming the news, Grimes tweeted a photo of a happy Pogba at United’s Carrington training complex, standing affront industrial washing machines reunited with the ladies who used to clean his kit when he was at the club as a teenager.
— Chris Grimes (@ChrisGrimes00) August 8, 2016
The image quickly took twitter by storm with 27,000 retweets and media publications, such as the Sun, snatching the image for their own use. Grimes, clearly elated with trumping Adidas and United, subsequently updated his Twitter bio which now reads: "Officially the 1st person on Twitter posting the picture of Pogba in his United training top!"
Adidas’ social media moves surrounding the Pogba deal illustrate its focus on becoming the most shared brand on social amongst its rivals and could be a sign of how evolution in the area of sports sponsorships.
James Anderson, account director at Publicis Media Sport & Entertainment, said: “With Paul Pogba recently becoming one of the key ambassadors for Adidas and one of the biggest personalities in world football, coupled with the world record kit deal of Adidas and Manchester United, you can see how the brand is leveraging its position and assets to fans.
“It is one of the first times I have seen a brand being the facilitator of the breaking news, which is not being supplied by a rights holder or a news broadcaster with exclusive information and as a result places them in a special place with sports fans.
While Grimes’ tweet is unlikely to have impacted on the effectiveness of United or Adidas’ campaigns, it somewhat undermines their reputation for breaking news. The early leak will likely have only fuelled additional hysteria surrounding the formal reveal but Adidas’ efforts create a sense that sponsors hold more sway over the choreography of big announcements in football.