With Some Help From Adidas, NBA Stars Talk Directly With Fans in China

Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose Took Part in China's First Live Interactive Online TV Show

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SHANGHAI (AdAge.com) -- Adidas found a way to appeal to two passions among urban Chinese youth -- the internet and basketball -- by bringing two National Basketball Association stars to China and establishing a digital initiative around the tour.

The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (second from left) and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls (third from left) took part in China's first live interactive online TV show.
The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (second from left) and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls (third from left) took part in China's first live interactive online TV show.
The German sportswear company organized a trip to Shanghai in late August for Dwight Howard, the NBA's defensive player of the year, and Derrick Rose, the rookie of the year, called the Adidas Double-Double Tour. Their visit was promoted through an aggressive online strategy in the world's largest internet market. The number of web surfers in China topped 338 million people earlier this year, more than the whole U.S. population. Adidas's primary target, urban youth in China's most-developed markets, is particularly addicted to the internet and mobile handsets.

"The tour was anchored by an unprecedented digital initiative that has never been done in China. From the minute [Messrs. Howard and Rose] touched down in Shanghai, they were communicating directly with fans," said Natalie Lam, exec creative director at OgilvyOne Worldwide, Shanghai and regional creative director, Asia/Pacific.

The WPP agency created the online and digital elements of the campaign, while Ogilvy PR managed events and media outreach.

During the three-day visit, the NBA stars recruited 50 Chinese ball players to help construct and open the Adidas Brotherhood Center at Shanghai's Xu Jia Hui street court, a hot spot among the city's basketball's elite. The center features Adidas-branded courts created to NBA dimensions in a market where basketball has enormous popularity going back decades, and NBA games are viewed by tens of millions of Chinese.

"Basketball's popularity continues to grow in China and it remains our No. 1 brand priority locally to drive brand image and sales," said Paul Pi, Adidas's VP-marketing for China.

Adidas also brought the players to China to help promote their respective Team Signature footwear lines, co-designed with Adidas, and to visit Shanghai retail stores, training camps and neighborhood basketball courts.

Their visits were tracked by Chinese basketball fans online through text messaging, digital photos and videos produced by two fans recruited by Adidas to cover the trip.

The budding reporters followed the basketball stars in a mobile reporting car from the moment they arrived at Shanghai's Pudong airport. Their content was uploaded to the site every one to four hours, marking the first time China Telecom's 3G technology, launched earlier this year, was used in a digital campaign.

Adidas created its own content with tour highlights, behind-the-scenes stories, live chats and the players' own videos. The visit was also recorded by the players themselves, particularly Mr. Howard, who has a "digital obsession," said Ryan Morlan, Adidas's global director of basketball communications.

They players interacted fans through text messages, their own blog entries and personal Facebook pages.

Adidas picked two bloggers to follow the NBA stars throughout their tour.
Adidas picked two bloggers to follow the NBA stars throughout their tour.
Interactive and live video content was posted on Adidas.com/cn and three other major Chinese sites -- online video-sharing site Youku.com, local portal Sohu.com and Xiaonei.com, China's largest social network -- through a collaboration between the websites orchestrated by Adidas. Fans could view content, post messages to the players and take part in China's first live interactive online television show at minisite.youku.com/adidas/ddtv.

Banner ads promoting the minisite and tour content appeared in other internet channels such as NBA.com; Sina.com and 163.com, two other major portals; China's leading instant-messaging site QQ.com; and two other online video sites, Ku6.com and Tudou.com.

The tour was also broadcast via mobile media on KongZhong Corp.'s Kong.net, China's most popular mobile site. A small campaign site was launched during the tour with a blog, news, tour introduction, products and video downloads.

During the players' 72-hour visit to Shanghai from Aug. 22-26, 44 online videos were created, generating 99 million page views by more than 9 million unique users.

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