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Adidas Advises ‘Hashtag Hierarchy'

Warc, May 25, 2015

CHICAGO: Brands seeking to create content for major sporting events should focus on issues like tone of voice, scenario planning and establishing a "hashtag hierarchy", according to a leading executive from adidas.

Thomas van Schaik, the firm's global brand director, discussed this topic at IEG's 2015 Sponsorship conference in Chicago, framing his points around the 2014 World Cup, of which adidas was an official partner.

Among the main matters to consider, he suggested, are formulating a unique proposition and tone of voice – and making sure they fit a brand's wider positioning.

Marketers similarly need to decide what "pillars" ought to support their overall strategy, and not try to cover too much ground.

"You can't do everything and mean everything to everybody. You end up meaning nothing," said van Schaik. (For more, including details of the company's online "brazuca" activation, read Warc's exclusive report: How a tweeting ball won the World Cup for adidas.)

In a related task, it is essential to identify the formats that will be used, both by earmarking specific platforms to leverage and addressing technical concerns such as content size and length.

While no sporting contest is entirely predictable, it is also possible to engage in scenario planning before events like the World Cup – for instance, by working out which teams are likely to play one other as the competition progresses.

"On that basis, you have to build your content calendar, and have to ensure that you have content – premium content – to complement each of these scenarios," continued van Schaik.

"Then you have to make sure that you can actually join the right conversations, or make sure that your conversations and your content are searchable, and people can actually find what it is that you're trying to tell."

In pursuing that goal, it is crucial to delineate a "hashtag hierarchy". During the 2014 World Cup, for example, adidas created an account for its brazuca match ball and gained significant traction with the hashtag "ballin".

This label tied in with the broader "all in" tagline employed by the company, and simultaneously reflected the slang term for living the good life.

"The World Cup is a graveyard of branded hashtags, and it is very, very difficult to get a hashtag that actually means something and is a useable tool to a consumer," said van Schaik.

As a result of all this preparation, brands can ready themselves for real-time marketing because, as van Schaik reminded the IEG delegates, "spontaneity requires a lot of planning".