Using the Force – adidas and the 2015 All Blacks Campaign

By Sarah Montpetit

In November 2014, adidas released a new All Blacks jersey, which they had been working on for two years, or an estimated 100,000 hours. It was the most technical rugby jersey to date, made out of woven carbon fabric, which made it absorb light more than any other fabric. They called it “the blackest jersey ever”, and it foreshadowed the upcoming Force of Black  campaign leading up to the team’s world cup defence in October 2015.

Here are five ways I think Force of Black hit the spot:

High impact, high quality visuals
First and most importantly, the campaign was built around more than a dozen high production value videos and associated images. The rise of video in marketing is not exactly new, but adidas capitalized on it in this 2015 campaign with compelling storytelling that was anything but boring.

Solid copy & hashtag gold
To go with those strong visuals, they used clear and concise copy that revolved around the words “force” and “black”, including the #ForceOfBlack hashtag.

The many uses of the word “force” were entertaining , and for the target audience of All Blacks fans, extremely appropriate. Here are a few:

  • Unstoppable force
  • The force that binds
  • Carved into our hearts, with every heartbeat the force gets stronger
  • Full force ahead to the final

Similarly, the use of the word “black” referenced the team name, the team jersey being marketed, but also alluded to the fabled history of the team.

Screenshot of adidas rugby’s Facebook account

Finally, with such a compelling hashtag, it is unsurprising that it was quickly adopted by fans on Twitter to share their love for the team, making the campaign participative.

Screenshots of fan tweets

Appealing to the left and right brain
Remembering that this was—at least partly—an exercise in marketing jerseys, on the adidas rugby website there was more use of logic and facts. But since the people in the video telling you about the amazing fit of the jersey and all the research that went into it are none other than All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and star player Dan Carter, with a few action scenes thrown in for good measure, I think it was a great way to appeal to both the left and right brains simultaneously.

Integrated across time, platforms and products
Just like this jersey did not happen in a vacuum—it is one in a long line of jerseys, steeped in tradition—so goes for the campaign. When adidas took over the sponsorship from Canterbury in 1999, they already started accentuating the colour black, the heritage of the jersey and its links to the past, as described in Jay Scherer and Steven J. Jackson’s book Globalization, Sport and Corporate Nationalism: The New Cultural Economy of the New Zealand All Blacks.

The line “black is thicker than blood” was first used at that time, and more than a decade later, adidas keep building on the same concepts with Force of Black, which in turn set the stage for the 2017 jersey. This newest jersey is being paired with the tagline “black reinforced”.

The campaign was also well integrated not only throughout the digital platforms (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and website) but with non-digital events. The biggest of these was a promotional event before the start of the rugby world cup where fans could meet some of the All Blacks players and also try running on a giant treadmill against a powerful fan blowing at nearly 40mph, to experience the “force of black”.

Screenshot of adidas rugby’s Instagram account

Finally, because adidas is selling more than just rugby jerseys, they managed another tour de force by producing their first line of all-black rugby boots—the “blackout” boots—for the team, pushing the blackness of the kit to the extreme.

Behind the scenes access
What high-profile sports apparel campaign would be complete without exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to star players. In this respect, Force of Black does not disappoint. Four videos featuring players and three featuring the jersey were created, as well a documentary about the making of the jersey, which includes interviews with All Blacks greats and even opposing players. At 51 minutes, the video (seen more than 150,000 times on YouTube) proves Mark Schaeffer’s point that if it’s relevant, interesting, timely and entertaining, it will likely appeal to your audience, even if it’s long.

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