Last week’s presentations were really interesting. One of the presentations spoke about being active on social media and being part of campaigns. This actually reminded me of my athletic friends on Facebook, who are sponsored by Adidas. They take part in the Adidas campaigns, and I am always very up-to-date on the new shoes that Adidas has just released, thanks to my friends.
This also took me further back to reminding me of another runner that basically started from scratch, without any sponsors, and who had recently qualified for the Rio Olympics. Angie Petty was representing the New Zealand team in the 800 meters in the Olympics!
Angie and I first met at the World Championships in Canada in 2010, where she was representing New Zealand in the 800 meters, and I was representing Israel in the 3000 meters steeplechase. The journey she went through (including her marriage to a UK runner, Sam Petty, which thanks to Facebook I got to be part of), was remarkable. She started off as a very modest runner with no sponsors at all, to creating a professional Athlete page on Facebook (which I obviously liked), receiving sponsorship from Adidas, and to her most recent post (a few days ago), in which she took advantage of her “status,” as being a participant in the Rio Olympics, and her professional Athlete page, to ask companies to sponsor her. Facebook clearly enabled us to stay in touch, including meeting in Belgium during the summer of 2012 while racing. I have to mention that in 2010 when we first met in Canada, I had never imagined that she would become an Olympic runner, and that we would be friends on Facebook!
World Championships, Canada, 2010 (Petty right, me on the left) Petty’s Facebook Athlete Page
Petty earned her sponsorship three years ago from Adidas, after having qualified for the Rio Olympics. When athletes reach one of the top levels of athletic events, they often find it much easier to approach these large companies. After racing in the Olympics, companies often contact athletes as well (who haven’t been “snatched yet” by other sponsors), and who perhaps are less well-known but have lots of potential, and can advertise and take part in campaigns for the company. You start off small, and then grow big.
While thanking the company for being your sponsor is very important, showing courtesy and being grateful for their support and help in the pursuit of one’s dreams, this move can also put the company’s interests ahead – all your friends on Facebook can see the pictures of the gear you received, and it serves as a way to advertise to your friends the brand and products, which may make you rush over to the next store to see if the gear is available too!
Petty mentioned in her post that she was so grateful, and added the fact that Adidas has been so good to her, that they are great sponsors, and that she can’t wait to train and race in the cool gear she just received (kind of made me jealous too, but I’m really pleased for her!).
The “race” for sponsors was not over yet. Petty’s recent post on Facebook, on Wednesday, caught me off guard, if I may say. Petty was seeking for more sponsors. She posted on her Athlete page whether her friends and family knew of any people or companies that can help her chase her international running dreams. She mentioned her race in the 800 meters in Rio, and that her training was going well. She stated her target goals for this year and the following year, reaching up to the 2020 Olympics. All she was asking for was financial assistance in traveling to the U.S. for training purposes to meet her goals for Tokyo Olympics. This made me realize how tough things can be for athletes too, coming from an athlete’s perspective. There is a lot of competition out there, that often companies look for a finalist in the Olympics or even a medalist champion (Petty unfortunately didn’t make it to the final round in Rio). All you want to do is train and do it seriously, but getting financial assistance is not something easy.
Petty mentioned that she would be more than happy to help advertise the company through her athletics journey and anything else in order to get the assistance. She stated that she aims to be the best athlete that she can be and to be a good role model to the up and coming athletes and young sports people. And of course, this was coming from an athlete who had raced in the Olympics, there was no doubt in my mind that she was professional and serious. The financial struggles of athletes in reaching their goals, don’t always end with the Olympics!
On the other hand, Adidas in Israel is much smaller in terms of sponsorships, and the manager sets strict terms for being part of “their family.” My friends are pretty much forced into taking pictures for Adidas campaigns, and to post certain hashtags in their posts (#WHYRUNTELVAVIV, #BOOSTYOURUN – due to the Adidas Boost shoes), including everyone changing their profile pictures simultaneously, and giving permission to Adidas to display your picture on bus stops (if you want to be sponsored by them that’s what you have to do!).
The Tel Aviv Marathon is approaching in March, and all Adidas Athletes are now displayed on posters in bus stop. A unique quote pertaining to each athlete (as to why they run) is being shared on Facebook, too. Some of these athletes do not hold the fastest running times nor do they hold any Israeli records (Israel is a tiny country after all), yet they are very good in articulating their message,marketing the Adidas brand, and being good-looking is definitely a plus in being part of the “Adidas family.” This makes me wonder whether Adidas is using a different approach to send their message through different athletes.
“I run to translate my dreams into numbers” (translated from Hebrew)
“Fire in your heart sends smoke into your head”
“Work silently, let your success make the noise” (translated from Hebrew)
Adidas supports the UK team, and in the Olympics you can see athletes wearing uniforms with the Adidas logo. So what is Adidas’s strategy and does it vary across the world?
Is it the well-known Olympic Stars (like Jessica Ennis-Hill) who can lean more on their status and less on being a social media “preacher,” or the less well-known athletes who can serve as great verbal and social media communicators to articulate Adidas’ messages?
Even though Adidas’ strategy may vary in different countries, every time the brand’s commercial or product appears on a screen, and perhaps ideally on an athlete, it’s a chance to connect with a global audience. I think that’s the main message that Adidas is trying to send.