Adidas influencer marketingSometimes as a marketer you need to stand back and go in search of some inspiration. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day that you don’t leave yourself any room to appreciate outside innovation.

There’s some impressive stuff going on out there. Stuff that you’d be crazy not to take note of. It’s time to set aside an hour each week in your diary to go looking for those inspirational feats of marketing which might just serve as the basis for your next campaign.

We’ll save you the effort of searching this week. We’d like to bring your attention to Adidas’ latest campaign, which seeks to “redefine influencer marketing”.

Driven by Neilsen’s research, which suggests that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, compared to only 33% who trust ads, the sports giant has rolled out a campaign which comprises ‘squads’ of influencers and dark social.

This is no small-scale, ‘tester’ campaign, as Marketing Week reports.

Adidas goes all-out attack on dark social

Adidas’ ‘Tango Squads’ – named after one of Adidas’ first footballs – consist of between 100 and 250 people, based in 15 key cities worldwide.

Aged between 16 and 19, it is hoped these socially savvy football content creators will share the exclusive content Adidas has sent their way.

Each squad is managed by an Adidas in-house team, who share never-before-seen content and new products with the members via direct messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Line.

Here’s another statistic that is driving Adidas: 70% of global brand referrals happen on dark social not via Twitter or Facebook.

Authenticity is the key to breaking down customers’ stubborn defence

Just last week we reported on how brands are struggling to get noticed on social media, with 40% of Brits stating they ‘actively ignore’ social posts or ads from brands.

As Adidas sees it, the way of overcoming this is to become more authentic in the eyes of customers.

Adidas is leaving no stone unturned, with all the content sent to its squad members mobile-optimised and shot in portrait, selfie-style. If it didn’t go to such measures, when the squad members re-share the content with its followers, it would immediately register with customers as an ad; Adidas clearly want to give their customers the impression that influencers are driving the content, not the brand.

Speaking at last week’s Festival of Marketing, Adidas senior director of global brand communications Florian Alt explained the theory behind the concept: “At the moment, a lot of brands are approaching social media as a publishing job with pre-set and pre-defined agendas. With the Tango Squad project we have a great opportunity. It’s a different way to produce content and speak to your communities.

“It’s not about sheer reach; what the hyper-connected kids bring is mass awareness. These are the guys who will push out your stories and content. They give it longevity and authenticity, because they are talking in a private messaging environment. If it comes as a referral from your mate, you’re much more likely to pick it up than if it comes from a brand.”

Alt believes the brand will be able to make a greater impression with customers by giving a piece of content to 500 kids, each with 2,000 followers, than to give it to a single global influencer with a million followers.

Keeping squad members happy

What do the squad members get out of all this? Well, first things first, they get a ton of exclusive Adidas content, which they can share with their friends and followers. Alt suggests they revel in being able to engage directly with the brand, increasing the likelihood that they will re-share the content. They are also given an opportunity to meet players… which just so happens to make for great content, too.

It could prove to be a masterstroke by Adidas, which hopes to reach a maximum of 500 members per squad by 2017.

“It could be this is re-defining influencer marketing,” Alt added. “It could be this becomes an Adidas insider tool for face to face communications or it could become a bad-ass loyalty programme. It could be a combination of all three. That’s the beauty of it.”