Adidas is hoping to change the face of influencer marketing with the launch of Tango Squads, communities of hyper-connected football obsessives operating on direct messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Line.
Named after one of Adidas’ first footballs, the Tango Squads are groups of socially savvy 16-19-year-old football content creators living in 15 key cities worldwide. While the squads are between 100 and 250 people, Adidas hopes to reach a maximum of 500 members per squad by 2017.
Each group is managed by an Adidas in-house team, who share exclusive content and new products with the group, before they are even unveiled on Adidas’ Twitter or Facebook channels.
All content is mobile optimised and shot in portrait selfie-style to add to the authenticity. The squad members are also invited to to take part in experiences like meeting players, which they then share on social media.
Currently 70% of global brand referrals happen on dark social not via Twitter or Facebook, explained Adidas senior director of global brand communications Florian Alt, speaking at the Festival of Marketing today (6 October) about the value brands can add by gaining mentions in the private messaging sphere.
“At the moment a lot of brands are approaching social media as a publishing job with pre-set and pre-defined agendas. With the Tango Squad project we have a great opportunity. It’s a different way to produce content and speak to your communities.
“It’s not about sheer reach, what the hyper-connected kids bring is mass awareness. These are the guys who will push out your stories and content. They give it longevity and authenticity, because they are talking in a private messaging environment. If it comes as a referral from your mate, you’re much more likely to pick it up than if it comes from a brand.”
Alt argued that while you can give a piece of content to one global influencer with a million followers, the message is far more authentic if you give it to 500 kids, each with 2,000 followers.
The Tango Squads fulfil Adidas’ desire to be a responsive brand, working on co-creation with consumers in key cities, Alt emphasised.
“We are really living open source and sharing our communication stories, experiences and products, and then allow them to feedback.”
Florian Alt, senior director of global brand communications, Adidas
“You’re giving up a little bit of autonomy and the keys to your brand, but the experiences we have had over the past couple of months are positive and we are using those Tango Squads as a first line of communication and updates with them prior than anyone who is following on Facebook or Twitter. The kids really appreciate the opportunity to engage with the brand.”
Alt admitted that currently Adidas cannot measure the effectiveness of the dark social approach as he can measure engagement on Twitter and Facebook, meaning reports of success are reliant on the local teams who manage the communities reporting back. However he is very positive about the success of the Tango Squads three months in.
“It could be this is re-defining influencer marketing. It could be this becomes an Adidas insider tool for face to face communications or it could become a bad-ass loyalty programme. It could be a combination of all three. That’s the beauty of it.”
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