A Cross-media Full-court Press
In the high-stakes world of professional basketball, where the average team is worth $634 million, coming up with a play, potion or piece of gear with the potential to improve a player’s performance is a big deal.
This is where sports clothing giant Adidas found itself at the tail end of 2012, having invested a considerable amount of time and money in developing its Adizero uniform. The performance-enhancing clothing was 26% lighter than traditional jerseys, boasted short sleeves designed to keep the muscles warm during the game, and were undeniably eye-catching.
They would look even better on the backs of some uber-fit basketball stars at the top of their game.
Adidas’ Triple Threat Position
What Adidas wanted to do was ultimately change the uniforms worn by every player in the NBA. You don’t do that overnight. And you don’t do that simply by approaching the National Basketball Association, the team owners or the coaches. It’s a full-court press or nothing. In basketball, the player in a triple-threat position can either dribble, pass or shoot – Adidas now had to do all three.
The idea of playing to multiple audiences at once was nothing new for the San Francisco marketing firm Adidas ultimately consulted: Lux Design. More and more, cross-media campaigns aren’t just a matter of shouting the same message to the same audience through print and digital channels; they involve doing that to multiple audiences simultaneously. It’s something that Lux Design takes pride in.
In this case, the audience was the team managers and the players. At the same time, the fans would see any resulting campaign (and potentially buy more team jerseys collectively than the teams themselves), so Lux Design wanted them to be engaged as well. They determined that their audience could be reached through print, video, stadium banners and the Web.
To show off the new uniform, Adidas created a prototype for one of the NBA’s youngest teams: Oakland’s Golden State Warriors.
“The challenge was to say, ‘OK, how can we promote this new uniform in such a way that it’s not just the same old thing for the Warriors and same old thing for the NBA, or the same old thing for Adidas,” says James Forcier, principal and chief executive officer at Lux Design.
They used two Golden State Warrior players for the campaign: Charles Jenkins (who now plays for Red Star Belgrade in the Serbian League) and Harrison Barnes. For each player, a photographer took a portrait shot and an action shot. Lux Design also used up-close photographs of the jersey sleeves, shorts and other aspects of the uniform to emphasize the breathability and style of the clothing. The images were retouched and backgrounds were inserted in some of them to accentuate the uniform. For example, in one photo, a blue-and-yellow striped background mirrors the stripes on the shorts.
The images were then incorporated into print advertisements, promotional materials, stadium banners, screen graphics, Web ads, scoreboard graphics, and handouts during the game.
They used similar fonts and typefaces on all of them, says Forcier. “We chose colors and backgrounds that would tie everything together in an overall look and feel.”
They also shot a video featuring Barnes playing the game in the performance-enhancing uniform, though Adidas later ended up not using the footage.
In all, the campaign took a month to craft and was completed by January 2013.
Different Medium, Different Response
When creating the promotion, Lux Design had to keep in mind that people respond to different media in different ways. With the Web “you typically have a split second to capture someone’s interest and to make an impression,” says Forcier. On the other hand, “if you do a brochure and it’s handed out to people, you want them to open it.”
That meant ensuring that the promotional brochures distributed at the game featured graphics that would appeal to a sports enthusiast since “you don’t want people to look at the cover and think, ‘This is an ad for Adidas so I wouldn’t be interested in this as a sports fan.’ ”
When creating the scoreboard graphic, they also had to keep in mind that players and fans would be looking up at it during a game multiple times so they didn’t want the images to “smack the viewer in the face,” says Forcier. Instead, they opted for “several different images that are more subtle, that get the point across to someone who’s looked at the scoreboard 25 times.”
They also had to convey the idea that the uniforms would actually improve the player’s game. One way they did that was through action shots, such as one showing Jenkins taking a jump shot. The video also showed Barnes in action.
“If you look at multiple images and several of them are these folks at different stages of doing what they do as professional athletes, that leaves a subliminal message that this thing actually does work,” Forcier says.
After all that effort, after communicating to fans, players, managers and the NBA, the Adizero uniform was quietly benched. All involved knew that success had been a long shot as they’d aimed to change a very entrenched part of the game. Says Forcier philosphically, “we did well with the opportunity and the client was happy, so that was good for us.”
Sometimes that’s just the way the ball bounces.