Adidas’s World Cup campaign provides a lesson in consent

Adidas’s World Cup campaign has attracted as much attention for its unusual approach to engendering loyalty among social media followers as it has for its star-studded TV ad featuring Leo Messi, Dani Alves and Luis Suárez and a new track by Kanye West.

Russell Parsons

The final frame of the Youtube ad asks people to click ‘all in’ or ‘nothing’ buttons, a reference to the campaign’s ‘all in or nothing’ name. Those that choose ‘all in’ will be connected  “to everything Adidas has to offer” on Twitter and via CRM initiatives during the World Cup but those that choose ‘nothing’ will, err, not.

Adidas said people choosing “all in” demonstrate they “understand Adidas’s philosophy and approach to football”, while it is happy to lose those choosing “nothing”. A focus on the quality rather than the quantity of its social media audiences the reason it offered.

The tactics employed have caused a bit of a stir with some observers dismissing it as specious PR bluster, while others have held it up as an example to all for its eschewing of chasing social media followers for volume sake.

What it definitely does is provide people with choice. Three clicks are required to opt-in and five to opt-out. Whatever the wisdom of the campaign there is an explicit consent to receive news, views and offers from Adidas.

The question of whether someone has opted in to receiving direct marketing was at the centre of a court case involving John Lewis last week.

According to Sky News, the retailer has been ordered to pay damages to a man after a court ruled that he had not given explicit consent to receive unsolicited emails. 

It is said the claimant, Roddy Mansfield, began to receive the emails after using John Lewis’s ecommerce site and failed to untick a pre-ticked consent box.  

He argued, and the court agreed that an untaken opportunity to opt-out should not be taken as automatic consent.

In its response to Sky, John Lewis said: “Mr Mansfield voluntarily gave us his email address, set up an account online and chose not to opt-out of marketing communications when that option was available to him.

“We listen carefully to what our customers tell us about how and when we communicate with them and endeavour to do so in a manner that is convenient to them.”

John Lewis is, by most measures, an example to other retailers in terms of service, tone and marketing excellence but it has missed the point in its response.

In this instance, there has definitely been an exchange and in most cases it is likely that the retailer could credibly argue that the exchange means the recipient is generally not averse to receiving such messages. However, that is not always the case.

The decision as to whether someone has opted in or out should not be open to debate in a court of law. It should not be under any doubt.

Consent by pre-ticked box needs to consigned to the marketing history books. Data-driven marketing needs to be based on a clear permission transaction otherwise the concern people have about use of their data will snowball and put DM innovation at risk.

A customer needs to be ‘all in’ or receive ‘nothing’.