Adidas get socially smart with #Pogback: But are they as savvy with the data?

Russell Glenister, SnapRapid founder & CEO

Somebody once said that news is what you don’t want anybody else to know….and that the rest is advertising.

I say someone because it’s a quotation which has been attributed to a whole bunch of different people including George Orwell and William Randolph Hearst. But, irrespective of its origins, it’s one which has stood the test of time as a defining statement of publishing’s separation of State and Church – advertising and editorial.

But, as someone else once said: That was then…this is now.

On Friday night Paul Pogba made his second debut for Manchester United following his world record £89.3 million plus bonuses transfer from Juventus. It was a transfer story which had everything. It wasn’t just the size of the fee but the circumstances which made it fascinating. It was not just about United signing a great midfielder but about the statement of intent from the club about its future and its support for new boss Jose Mourinho.

It was also a transfer which shone a light on the vagaries of pro football. After all, wasn’t it only yesterday that the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson had let Pogba go and wasn’t the club now paying a heavy price for his return? It was a transfer which has been trailed for what seemed like months and which dragged on throughout the post-Euros period in which Pogba was ever-present on social media as he banished any blues after France’s defeat by Portugal in the final with a spot of R&R in the USA.

In short it was a transfer which had everything. It was news, BIG news on the sports pages and beyond.

And really that’s what makes it so interesting.

Paul Pogba’s transfer provided the perfect example of how the gap between news and advertising is being eroded by the creative use of social media. Instead of being driven purely by creatives and copywriters, it is being driven by events which they can’t hope to control but which, thanks to digital connectivity and the tumbling cost of production, they can respond to faster than ever before.

Pogba, like his new team, is sponsored by Adidas who were smart enough to feast on the opportunity they were presented with.

In the long, drawn-out days leading up to the signing, Adidas posted a 20 second video, Blah…Blah….Blah, with a storyline hinting at a done deal but using Pogba to tell fans not to believe everything they read in the papers, finishing with the corporate kicker – First Never Follows. Naturally it went viral.

Then, once the deal had been announced – following the star’s televised arrival at Manchester in a private jet and journey (in a sponsored Chevy of course) to the training ground – Adidas were back at it, with a YouTube video of Pogba in United kit with grime artist Stormzy – also sponsored by Adidas – which was initially ‘leaked’ on Stormzy’s Facebook page.

Clearly Adidas had the inside track on the deal. But, even so, the speed with which the work was produced and published was remarkable and it was that speed and alignment with a news event which ensured its elevance and engagement.

Of course PR companies have been creating ‘news’ for ever and they’re all for pushing content out across social media platforms. But all too often their efforts are clunky, inauthentic and contrived. Creating advertising around ‘news’ as opposed to manufactured PR, however, is a door which is already unlocked and which technology is pushing open wider by the day.

Naturally not all news provides opportunities for brands. The staple diet of conflict, terror and disaster is entirely inappropriate. That’s a point made by the British satirical magazine Private Eye whose ‘Malgorthms’ column highlights the bad-taste juxtaposition of news content and ads served-up online. Here’s an example: An item in the Bristol Post about the devastation of the family of a 4-year-old boy who died in a swimming pool appeared next to an ad for the shark attack movie The Shallows. There’s a lot more where that came from.

But sport is different. It’s on and off field dramas produce a seemingly endless flow of news in which limbs and egos get injured but, on the whole, no one dies.

But if news, whether extracted from sport or elsewhere, is an exciting stimulant for authentic and credible social media connectivity for advertisers, there remains a question over how they measure what impact their efforts are having and, ultimately, how much it is worth.

It’s a question I’ve spent the last year addressing as we have worked to develop SnapRapid’s technology which enables us to track not only sponsors, but also brands and personalities across 11 social media platforms and 300,000 digital channels worldwide.

For those interested in the science bit, it is all based on deep learning technology applied to analyse pixels in visual content we ‘scrape’ right the way through the diverse and multi-layered social and digital universe to evaluate millions of images and videos.

And while our initial work has been in sport – where we’ve tracked the Premier league, NBA, French Open Tennis, The Golf Open and Formula 1 among others – we always knew that was just the beginning.

It goes without saying that social media is altering the advertising and marketing universe hugely but one thing remains unchanged. If you don’t understand the results and value of what you are creating and publishing you might as well not bother.

That’s why SnapRapid’s technology is used to configure interactive dashboard reports which tell you where brands appear in social media, the extent of the coverage, where it’s being seen, what the sources and what people think about it. It will show you what content works best on which channels, invaluable when you are developing social and digital strategies.

And because we understand the importance of speed in a sport and news environment, we’ve even developed a tool called Live2Social, which allows rights holders to edit and post “live” video to social platforms in close to real time – which we also track and value, of course.

Marketing Week recently covered the story of Pogba’s social media-focused transfer and reported ‘Over 153,000 mentions of the Pogba transfer since it was officially announced. Over 12,000 of the Pogba mentions also referred to Stormzy or Adidas.’

Well, those figures are what they are but, having been looking at this space for what seems like a long time now, they seem remarkably small for the biggest transfer in football history and a fantastically timely and compelling video featuring not only the player but another adidas backed star, with one of the World’s biggest football teams, Manchester United, as a significant sideshow.

And I guess that’s the point. As advertising speeds up, feeds off news and becomes more like news, it’s not enough to accept the numbers that happen to be out there. It’s about having really comprehensive data that can be relied upon to establish value and unlock creativity.

When, on behalf of Eurosport, we tracked Chris Froome bizarrely running, rather than cycling, up Mont Ventoux during the recent Tour de France, we analysed pixels to find the videos on social media. If we had relied on #hashtags we would have missed most of them and misrepresented the data.

Read into “mentions” data based on #hashtags as you will, what we know is that the numbers can be misleading – in fact, they often don’t add up at all. Are the marketeers and analysts at Adidas aware of that? They soon will be… I have their number dialled in, #6 on speed dial.

On that note, have a good week.

Adidasenglish premier leagueManchester UnitedPogba

Russell Glenister • 26th August 2016

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