How to Differentiate Content in a Crowded Field [Example from Adidas]

Adidas Group’s corporate communications team recently launched a new content platform for athletes and athletes at heart. Relationships are built on trust. Thomas: An important task of a coach and his staff is to develop a strategy and a unique perspective of the game. To guide the team toward achieving our mission (to inspire people to tackle work life with an athlete’s heart and become their business life’s MVP), we developed tools like a simple Content Creation Journey, which helps the team find the right story angle(s). Trigger With the DNA and Mega Theme defined, writers must ask what “trigger” will cause individuals to share a story. One of our most important channels currently is LinkedIn. Individually, due to my role (overseeing both technical development of our corporate digital platforms and content creation), it’s sometimes hard to understand why some content performs and some doesn’t. CCO: What can marketers learn from the athlete’s mindset? to focus on what they can do best. We only can perform well if we plan for breaks as well as for meetings, etc.

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Adidas Group’s corporate communications team recently launched a new content platform for athletes and athletes at heart. Often erroneously thought of as a single shoe brand, adidas Group is a product design and development powerhouse that owns a bevy of athletic brands including Reebok, TaylorMade, CCM, and the eponymous Adidas brand.

We spoke to the group’s Senior Director of Content Strategy and Creation Kirsten Keck and Senior Manager of Content Strategy Frank Thomas to understand the strategy behind the new venture, and how the company plans to differentiate itself in a crowded field.

CCO: Your new platform, GamePlan A, targets what you call “creators and entrepreneurial minds with an athlete’s heart.” What’s the significance of that statement?

Frank Thomas: Our audience is made up of creative, confident, and collaborative people who instinctively know that sport has the power to change lives. They strive to incorporate sport into everything they do — in work and in life. Our research shows our audience’s three big areas of interest are business, sport, and lifestyle; GamePlan A addresses the sweet spot among all three.

Our group faced a common challenge: As corporate communicators we serve a variety of target groups, such as business journalists from many industries (e.g., finance, HR, sustainability), NGOs, employees, future employees, and corporate brand advocates. To stay relevant, our content needed to become much more focused.

First, we eliminated those groups we knew we didn’t want to serve with a content marketing approach. Then with the groups that were left — which included employees, prospective talent, and corporate brand advocates — we worked hard to find shared interests and aspirations. And even more, we aim to attract those with values that overlap with the values adidas Group stands for.

We know content on GamePlan A is resonating because our engagement rates increased 150 percent, and the feedback we’re getting has been very positive.

CCO: How did you convince people inside adidas Group that you needed to move away from the product-based approach?

Kirsten Keck: GamePlan A embodies a new strategic approach for us, one that emphasizes content marketing as a part of the communications mix. For us content marketing doesn’t necessarily mean moving away from a product-based approach — in our industry people want to know when the latest shoe drops, what it looks like, and where they can buy it. But we also know some want more than that. They choose what they wear or what company they work for to showcase who they are and their attitude about life.

gameplan-a_magazine_frontcover

Author and speaker Andrew Davis once said, “Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” Our primary focus is not on driving revenue but building trust. GamePlan A is our way to add genuine value to our target audience’s lives, build relationships with like-minded people (we define them as “creators and entrepreneurial minds with an athlete’s heart”), and nourish our own culture by intensifying the connection between our external and internal target groups.

Having a clearly defined target group and content strategy makes our job easier because it gives us focus. The more people you try to talk to, the more generic and meaningless your content becomes. Good content marketing isn’t about reaching all people, but about reaching the right people with relevant information.

Our stakeholders understand that people’s trust, admiration, and appreciation (and eventually advocacy) for the adidas Group influences their decision to work for us, invest in us, or buy our products. Managing the company’s reputation (as a measure of trust) has a direct impact on business results.

CCO: I love the focus on the “athlete’s mindset.” Can you tell me more about how it informs your editorial strategy? How do you ensure that you don’t stray too far afield?

Thomas: An important task of a coach and his staff is to develop a strategy and a unique perspective of the game. But in the end it’s all about how well they organize, educate, and prepare the team for execution. It’s the exact same thing here.

In content marketing it begins with a documented, data-driven strategy. To guide the team toward achieving our mission (to inspire people to tackle work life with an athlete’s heart and become their business life’s MVP), we developed tools like a simple Content Creation Journey, which helps the team find the right story angle(s).

We created a documented methodology — the Content Creation Journey — to vet new ideas and ensure that they are on point with the group’s overall objectives. It includes the following stages:

  1. GamePlan A DNA

First, the editorial team…

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