By Scott Decker

3 Content Marketing Tips from the #Nike-#Adidas War


In the multi-billion dollar sports footwear business, two mighty titans stand above the rest. Adidas and Nike have been competitors in this category for decades. But the story isn’t just about how their product stacks up against each other; the similarities and differences in their marketing efforts are at least as interesting.

Nike consistently dominates from a global prospective and although there are shifts here and there, it has been built around the “Just Do It” slogan for more than 25 years.  Adidas has stayed strong with their core brand philosophy. The “Impossible is Nothing” motto, which later was shorted to “All or Nothing”, shows a similar focus to Nike in that both brands cater to athletes (and those who would like think of themselves as athletes).

While Nike is famous for hiring Michael Jordan in an endorsement deal back in the 80’s, Adidas expands their reach beyond sporting celebrities with endorsements with famous stars that have their own brand authority and following such as Kanye West and Pharell Williams.  When you look closely as their campaigns and strategies, the similarities are as numerous as the differences. Both are huge successes and here are some key takeaways we can learn from their battle for sneaker dominance:

1. Be Relevant: Brands of this size are always looking to keep up with trends so a marketing campaign can come out of what is happening day-to-day. This doesn’t mean just real-time “newsjacking”; when major sporting events are coming up, these brands know about them and plan accordingly. When their audience started paying attention to the 2014 World Cup from earlier this year, you bet both brands were going to be right there. Nike released their “Risk Everything” TV ad campaign featuring famous soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo to tie into the excitement.

Not to be outdone, Adidas also took advantage of the World Cup events with their ‘All In or Nothing’ campaign creating the ‘Leo Messi’s World Cup Dream’ TV ad also featuring a track by fellow Adidas spokesperson, Kanye West.

By making sure they were ready for an event that was going to generate plenty of interest, they didn’t have to create their own. The audience was already there so they just created content that would interest and excite World Cup fans.

What events exist in your industry that you can tie to your brand? Are you ready to react when an opportunity for real-time marketing comes up?

2. Be Resourceful: Nike and Adidas target the same audience with similar products. Just about every company has real competition selling the same kind of thing, so how do you stand out and show you’re the real authority in your space? Nike did this by expanding what they do but keeping true to their customers’ needs. Their Nike+ FuelBand brought great technology specific the lifestyles of their best customers (athletes and those maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle) out to that audience. The FuelBand tracks a person’s movement, energy, and calorie levels in the form of “fuel points”. And, of course, the FuelBand came out with an interactive campaign aimed towards increasing not just consumer engagement, but also creating an athletic community of people sharing stats to tap into social network interactions. In a way, the customers are now creating content for Nike in the form of updates on their friends’ social feeds. Point: Nike.

How can you expand what you offer by zeroing in on your customers’ needs and goals?

3. Be Real: Nike and Adidas both have stayed true to their principles through decades and decades of competition, innovation, and change. Neither has branched out so far that they have lost what customers love about their brands. Every company wants to grow but it is important to never let a desire to increase revenue mean you move away from your core values and demographic. Since their founding, neither company has strayed from targeting athletes, knowing that was their key audience and it would be inspirational for many others, too. You can see it in the content they produce; it is all focused on the lifestyle that their brands engender and that their customers have come to rely upon.

How do you make sure you keep your core values front and center when you communicate with your clients or develop new ideas and products?

Like the three ‘R’s’ in education, the three “R’s” above are a powerful way to ensure you are regularly engaging with your customers in a way that will keep them interested in what your brand has to say. Show them your commitment by talking about what interests them, being useful and innovative in a meaningful way, and proving that they can rely on you. Brand loyalty (and sales) that Nike and Adidas command isn’t easy to build, but the roadmap to get there is pretty clear when you keep the focus on your customer.

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By Scott Decker
Scott Decker is the President and Founder of PublishThis. Before PublishThis, he led technology at, Blue Nile, and development solutions for the government. When he’s not running PublishThis, the industry’s most advanced content platform, he’s exploring new technologies, preparing for next Halloween, or watching something with superheroes, dinosaurs, or at least a lot of explosions.