At 5 p.m. on the Fourth of July, forty-odd members of Team Adidas are watching the kick-off of the Colombia vs. Brazil quarterfinal match on three flat screens from Adidas' real-time marketing hub in Rio de Janeiro. A fourth screen tracks the most-searched players among the 100 or so World Cup athletes Adidas sponsors; it shows Colombian star James Rodriguez rise to the top of the list.
The war room is located at the Rio headquarters of Flamengo Athletic Club, one of the world's most popular soccer teams. During the World Cup, the headquarters is home to Posto Adidas, a three-story retail space, media center, tech hub and rooftop VIP space -- a gut renovation of an area that previously housed over 4,000 Flamengo trophies collecting dust.
It's the biggest day yet at the month-long World Cup, and of Adidas' months-long preparation to do real-time marketing on a sustained global scale. The winners of the days' two matches -- Germany against France, followed by Brazil against Colombia -- will play each other in the semi-finals on Tuesday, July 8. Adidas is one of the tournament's major sponsors, and it has spent the last year crafting an ambitious campaign to build the players and national soccer federations it sponsors -- representing 9 of the 32 national teams that made it to the World Cup -- into heroes that are "all In or nothing." By this point in the tournament, the Adidas campaign slogan seems as appropriate for the marketers as it is for the surviving teams.
"We want to be the most talked-about brand at World Cup," says Tom Ramsden, brand marketing director for Adidas Football, who oversees communications across advertising, PR, social and retail. "We knew we were going to do something real-time, that isn't completely brand new to us, but it is at this scale."
"The spin-off would be to be the most talked about in terms of how much traffic you can drive to retail, use of things like the hashtag and everything else," Mr. Ramsden adds. "But that simple goal is what is keeping the train on the tracks."
Long road to Rio
While real-time marketing has often meant a social-media push around a relatively limited event like the Super Bowl, July 4 marks the 23rd consecutive day of Adidas' effort to produce and push out exclusive content across social and global retail channels in sync with events during the 64 World Cup matches. For the last year, London-based social media agency We Are Social has been flying across the globe to gather content on over 100 Adidas players that can be assembled on the fly regardless of who wins. Luckily for Adidas, one of those athletes is James Rodriguez, a 22-year-old who has scored six goals so far as the emerging star for Colombia, an Adidas-sponsored team that hasn't gotten this far before in a World Cup.
We Are Social pared the massive footage it gathered down into a "Content Bible" of 1,000 images and 160 videos primed for use in reaction to game play -- clips like Mr. Rodriguez shooting a penalty kick to Colombian player Pablo Amero demonstrating his victory dance. By December, it had an hour-by-hour calendar of the full 32-day tournament, anticipating what might happen and developing content around it.
"It's basically spread betting," Mr. Ramsden says.