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Adidas CIO plays to win at digital marketing

Elizabeth Heichler | Feb. 17, 2015
Jan Brecht describes how a unified tech-marketing team scored a victory at the 2014 World Cup.

jan brecht keep
Adidas Group CIO Jan Brecht.

Forget the territorial battles being fought at other companies between marketing and technology executives. At renowned athletic gear maker Adidas Group, the digital marketing approach is built on a real alliance between the two disciplines.

Compared to the same sporting event eight years ago, the 2014 World Cup marked a big difference in where companies in the sports arena focus their marketing efforts, said CIO Jan Brecht, speaking to us from Adidas global headquarters in Herzogenaurac, Bavaria. "In 2006, it was almost entirely television and print media spend; if you look at 2014 Brazil, the vast majority is digital. So what needs to happen to be as successful in the digital world as we were in the analog world?"

In a conversation with Elizabeth Heichler, vice president and editorial director of the IDG News Service, Brecht talked about how to build a successful digital marketing effort, as well as how he's using IT to help drive other parts of the business forward. Here's an edited transcript.

What do you see as the most important factors in IT's involvement in digital marketing?
Brecht: I would say there are three areas. One is the team. The second one is the way you talk to consumers, which has shifted from the monologue you were having in television or print. It's a very fundamental shift in the way you interact. And the third area is in fact technology, which has also come a very long way. If you go back to World Cup 2006, the iPhone didn't exist, or any smartphone, and today's world is almost unthinkable without them.

How were things different at the 2014 World Cup?
Brecht: We set up an entire social media hub in one of the hot spots of soccer, which is the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro. We not only put our people in there, but we co-located a newsroom with Google people, we had a very close cooperation with them. We played on every relevant social media platform, certainly not just Facebook and Twitter, but anything we can do to connect, and we didn't just send messages, but we listened.

Every day we had a social media sensing report, telling us what the feedback was on social media. Every day we measured the retweets of our messages, measured Facebook posts, through scanning thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of messages, every day getting consolidated feedback through social media sensing. So all of a sudden, your entire conversation changes from a monologue to dialogue.

We definitely won that World Cup from a marketing perspective. We had 22 percent higher share of voice than any other [sports] company in the World Cup. The ball was tweeting! Our soccer ball was tweeting. That thing had millions of followers. Through that social media hub, which was truly interacting with the consumer, we won that World Cup from a marketing perspective.


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