[Campaign Review ] How Adidas proved that #FirstNeverFollows

Mohammad Kanchwala
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[Campaign Review ] How Adidas proved that #FirstNeverFollows
There are a lot of benchmarks to measure the success of a campaign but for a consumer, immediately recognizing a tagline is perhaps the most crucial aspect, and every brand strives to achieve this. Hearing 'Impossible Is Nothing' instantly establishes a connection with consumers. It was Adidas' tremendously successful campaign that changed the marketing game back in 2004.

The German brand has outdone their previous success, with #FirstNeverFollows, their latest campaign focused solely on the sport of Football, an arena they wish to dominate and presently do, thanks to a brilliantly executed social media strategy.

They have gone out and followed up on their previous tagline and proved, Impossible really is nothing, with #FirstNeverFollows.


Numerous brands talk the talk. Self proclaimed number one status in the market, best ever this, best ever that. But the German sports brand has matched the talk with years of hard work to eventually walk the walk.

The world of sports has one of cutthroat competitions, not just between teams and players, but also between brands associated with them. Adidas and Nike are the powerhouses that dominate the football merchandising and sponsorship league.

Over the years, there wasn’t really a winner between the two, as both brands have indulged in a healthy competitive rivalry, most specifically in Europe where football maintains its unchallenged popularity. But today, Adidas has crept up and nudged Nike back just a little bit to come out on top, for now.

The scales were pretty much balanced up until recently, when Adidas upped the ante with the FIFA World Cup first, where both finalists sported Adidas manufactured kits (Argentina and Germany) resulting in Adidas being the most popular brand in the football realm.

Additionally, Adidas recently managed to bring two of the most successful teams from team Nike to team Adidas; Manchester United and Juventus while retaining Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and AC Milan.


Fast forward to the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, with the UEFA Cahmpions League Final, Paul Pogba's impending transfer, followed by the inception of Euro 2016, Adidas rolled out #FirstNeverFollows by summoning every possible marketing asset to seize the number one spot. It was set in motion with a video on social media, based around the speculative chatter of the impending transfer window.

The brand formulated a video featuring Paul Pogba, followed by a video featuring German Mesut Ozil and then another with the Urugyuan striker Luis Suarez, wearing their newly unveiled football boots, and the unveiling of the third kits of all the big six clubs under Adidas sponsorship wing.

These videos were followed by numerous images, creative illustrations and more videos, the most viewed being one featuring Pogba, Ozil and Suarez alongside Manuel Neuer, Diego Costa, manager Jose Mourinho, frequent collaborator, rapper Stormzy among many others.

At the end of the video, Adidas revealed their newest line of football boots, the Adidas Speed of Light pack, the Adidas Dark Space all black pack, the Adidas Viper pack.

Adidas Dark Space

Adidas’ arsenal of football royalty comprises of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Diego Costa, Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and teams such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, AC Milan , Chelsea and the recently scooped up multimillion dollar kit manufacturing deals of Juventus and Manchester United helped the German brand assert their authority.

Another promotional activity to enhance engagement amongst followers on social media was a contest to design the kits of their favorite club team, with the winning design to be chosen as the third kit design for the club team.

Building on the success and traction achieved by the first video, over the course of the Euro tournament, Facebook and Twitter were flooded with videos featuring Paul Pogba, Mesut Ozil and Luis Suarez among others. The videos featured the footballers wearing Adidas’ new line of football boots, built specifically keeping in mind player’s attributes and strengths.

Ace16+ PureControl endorsed and worn by Paul Pogba, the X16+ PureChaos worn by Gareth Bale and Lionel Messi wore the Messi 16 designed specifically for him.

The idea behind the individual videos for the star players and teams was to leverage their popularity to promote their new line of football boots, the Speed Of Light edition. As well as the newly unveiled kits for each of the iconic teams they design kits for and was executed to coincide with the transfer speculation.

Simultaneously promoting the German brand, building brand recall and driving jersey sales which serves as the backbone of the revenue for clubs and the kit makers, i.e, Adidas.

Along with posts and videos posted by Adidas’ official social media handles, the brand made sure the visibility their campaign achieved was maximum.

#FirstNeverFollows and the hype and anticipation was consistently high on social media with regular posts and well crafted videos. Adidas went a step further to rope in managers of two of the most popular teams in the world to feature in the videos, Zinedine Zidane and Jose Mourinho.

What went well

Not just their marketing strategy, creativity and innovative approach, but all the marketing stars were indeed aligned for Adidas. Capitalizing on the popularity of most talked about footballer this summer and now the most expensive football player in history, Paul Pogba, along with the contender for the title of the world’s best footballer, Lionel Messi, and (now) the second most expensive footballer in the world, Gareth Bale, World Cup winning goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, World Cup winner Mesut Ozil and La Liga Golden Boot winner from last season, Luis Suarez among others.

With a roster so elite, their followers numbering in the millions, coupled with overall followers of the big six teams Adidas designs kits for, #FirstNeverFollows gained phenomenal traction on social media.



Paul Pogba, Gareth Bale, Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema and others are very active on social media which worked in their favour as their campaign hashtag reached a colossal number of people.

What could have been better

For a campaign designed to promote their new edition of football boots, Adidas focused primarily on their athletes although the product was aesthetically brilliant, highly anticipated and well received.

Nevertheless, they managed to put out the word and capitalize on the combined popularity of the brand, the big six teams and the star players to create a phenomenal campaign.

In the past

'Impossible Is Nothing' was one of the most successful campaigns from Adidas that resonated well with their audience globally. A strategy they emulated once again with #FirstNeverFollows, was leveraging the popularity of legendary athletes ranging from present superstars such as David Beckham, Sachin Tendulkar, Lionel Messi to yesteryear champions, Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens.

Videos featuring present day sportspersons, each narrating a story of how they overcomed the odds, to become champions, reinforcing the campaign tagline, 'Impossible Is Nothing'.

Adidas collaborated with American boxing legend Muhammad Ali's daughter Laila Ali and created a video using special effects, depicting her boxing with her father, from his heydays. additionally, American Olympic 4x gold medallist sprinter Jesse Owens was featured in a video that guaranteed success for Adidas in America, a territory they struggled to stamp their authority in, trailing Nike and Reebok.

In Europe, David Beckham and Barcelona striker, Lionel Messi who was a rising star at the time, helped the brand assert their authority in the minds of their target audience of young buyers.

For Cricket crazy India , Adidas relied on the popularity of another legend, Sachin Tendulkar, to popularize them over rival brands.

The campaign took off brilliantly all over the world, especially in the United States of America, Europe and India, three of the biggest markets across the world. This gives us a window into the German brand's finesse when it comes to marketing, groundwork of acquiring the best athletes to work for them and delivering sports merchandize of unquestionably high quality.


According to data from Total Sportek, six of the top ten highest selling team jerseys were from Adidas, which reflects the brand had an established platform to begin with. The brand has gone from strength to strength, to register one of the most well executed campaigns in recent years.

highest jersey sales mirror uk

jersey sales mirror uk

Both Adidas and Nike have had some of the most successful teams and players in their ranks who they showered with their best possible merchandize and they in turn promoted the brands for a win-win situation that raked in billions.

Judging by visibility and popularity on social media alone, Adidas has overshadowed their competitors this time around with #FirstNeverFollows.

Germany olympics real madrid Lionel Messi Adidas luis suarez mesut ozil paul pogba zinedine zidane Brazil FIFA Spain Italy world cup america england gareth bale david beckham uefa muhammad ali la liga manchester united bayern munich chelsea ac milan adidas football dark space diego costa jesse owens jose mourinho juventus karim benzema manuel neuer marcelo speed of light viper wbf zlatan ibramihovic