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adidas – Tango League

Audiences trust mates not brands. Where does that leave us?

When you’re a young aspiring footballer, you want to be like Messi or Suarez, so buy their boots. But as you get older footballing idols mean less. So, you turn to your mates, your tribe, for the right way to fit in. That’s where we saw an opportunity for a credible brand like adidas to get noticed.

We spotted that adidas’s key 16-24 demographic play football with a passion but don’t engage with traditional channels. Attending Premier League matches is irrelevant. They don’t watch Match of the Day and ignore conventional advertising.

To get back on track, the brand needed to connect in a non-advertising way. So we engaged them via their influential social peers. That’s everyone from their mates, fellow players and captains, to music and street artists.

Ahead-of-the-game in our use of ‘dark social’.

So we delivered the adidas TANGO League. A street football tournament whose innovation lay in the approach to recruiting players and growing reach. Given our players reject media, we turned to ‘dark social’. Then we tapped into local urban football communities. Our teams were selected via WhatsApp invitations. We entered our players’ world, by encouraging our hand-picked captains to write, post and share on behalf of adidas across their social channels during the tournament. In its first year the TANGO League reached more than 6.1 million users. By staging the tournament in London, it had a halo effect for adidas thanks to the networks our influencers move in.

Contagious Magazine showcase the work at lectures as “one of the best examples of dark social concluding people trust mates, not brands”.