Interviews

Florian Alt, Vice President Global Brand Communications, adidas Football

"For me, when other brands are starting to enter your ground, you need to leave it and embark on the next journey."

Kara Melchers

Managing Editor, BITE

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Creativebrief: Could you outline your career to date, talking us through any highlights.
Florian Alt: I’ve been with adidas over 20 years; I’ve never worked anywhere else. I started working in the factory outlet when I was in school. I’m originally from Herzogenaurach which is where adidas’ headquarters is so I was always very close to the Three Stripes, also my father worked for the Three Stripes; the path was probably pre-set. After school and the Army, I joined an apprenticeship program which over two and a half years takes you through the whole company and you learn about all the different facets of the business. When the two and half years ended, I was lucky that they offered me a job immediately afterwards and I started working in retail marketing first. That was the time when adidas started to open their own shops, so I looked a lot after the communication approach within our stores. I then transitioned to oversee retail marketing initiatives for the football category for all retail but also wholesalers. Did this for two and a half years and then in 2010/11 I joined the brand communications department. Then in 2014 during the World Cup in Brazil I was lucky enough to get the chance to be a part of and learn a lot more about the PR and social publishing side. We were on the ground for the tournament in our first newsroom, reporting on a constant, daily basis which was a great learning curve and gave me lots of good insights into the world of PR and social media. In 2015, I was offered the role to look holistically after brand marketing for adidas Football on a global scale. I’ve worked myself up through the ranks to be able to do a role which arguably is my dream job. I feel very lucky and very happy every day when I go to work.
Creativebrief: Would you say in your role at the moment that your primary focus is to make sure adidas has a consistent brand tone of voice?
Florian Alt: The primary focus is to make sure that the work from adidas Football globally, no matter which market, is a holistic, end-to-end story line that is visually connected but also has a true grounding in what we believe our consumers are interested in. Then to construct a consumer journey that seamlessly leads from one touchpoint to the other. It used to be very simple. You had your traditional advertising which was a TV or print campaign and then you made sure that your brick and mortar retail mirrors that visual language and you drive traffic to a store. That was pretty much it. Nowadays, with social media and all the different touchpoints, and the digital savviness of our target consumers as well, it’s way more complicated. You need to make sure that social media drives people to our website or makes them aware of certain community activities that we have. Also making sure that our media activations are landing the right tone of voice so we can continue the journey in retail. To connect all those points and make them work in a succinct way, in a way that also is appealing and interesting for our target consumer, is one of my primary focuses. The other one is making sure we have a vision of where we want to develop and drive the category and our communications approaches in the future; to make sure we have a holistic plan as a business. My time is probably 50/50 split in terms of making sure we’re setting the right path for the future and then working in the here and now, making sure that it is a logical journey for our customers.

For me, when other brands are starting to enter your ground, you need to leave it and embark on the next journey.

Florian Alt
Creativebrief: Is there a piece of adidas work in the last year that you’re particularly proud of?
Florian Alt: There are two things that jump to mind from 2018. One was how we leveraged and activated around the FIFA World Cup. We had quite a different strategy this World Cup than to the World Cups before it in terms of not doing 24/7 reporting. Rather we looked at things that would really make a difference or would cut through and be purposeful or meaningful for our target audience. That’s a bit of a gamble from time to time because you prepare materials for certain things that might happen or not. If they don’t happen then it’s for the bin and you have to have a good fall-back plan. It was very successful from a communications and brand activation side in terms of how we leveraged that very important moment for football. The other one is our communities approach, a dedicated communities programme now which we call Tango. We enable kids around the world in all the different markets that we are operating in to experience and participate alongside adidas Football. The kids play football tournaments but it’s not only about playing football. It’s also how they can grow their local fame. We give them tutorials in how you use social media and then we hook them up with football influencers. The culmination was bringing the 21 best kids from 21 different countries together in Russia, in Moscow the day before the World Cup final and have them battle out amongst themselves to see who the most valuable player of adidas Tango was globally. It was great to see how engaged and thankful those kids were about the opportunity and how appreciative they were about how a brand was enabling them to do something that they would have never even have dreamt about.
Creativebrief: There’s been quite a lot of comms and money put into FIFA driving more women to play football. I just wondered if this is on adidas’ agenda as well?
Florian Alt: Absolutely it is. You cannot neglect the women’s side of the game. We have been testing certain things from women football products or a women’s football campaign in North America, seeing what the research and outcomes are, taking our learnings, developing it further. But I do believe it needs to be part of a natural integration within the overall football conversation that is happening. From the women in the sport that I’ve talked to, the common feedback I received was don’t make women something special or make them feel like an island or different to men. Treat us equally. For example, our Tango League events are open to anyone. They aren’t gender specific. The MVP from North America representing the US in the Tango League final last year was actually a female which was delightful to see. But it is also fair to say that we need to do much more about it and I’m pushing on our side to find ways to integrate and leverage women much more in our communications. But also respecting the feedback that I am getting from the female football players I’ve spoken to, to make it feel natural and as a normal part of the campaign, not something that has been added on because we want to tick a box. That’s not authentic and that’s not what female footballers deserve.
Creativebrief: What processes do you have in place to ensure that you’re working with diverse teams, both within adidas but also how do you encourage that from the agencies that you work with as well?
Florian Alt: Within adidas, diversity is a core belief that we share within the company, so it is something that is naturally embedded. I work at the global HQ so by default you have a lot of different nationalities, religions that all work collaboratively in a good spirit. I also try to see that the agencies we have keep that cultural diversity.

We always had the ambition to keeping moving on and I believe this makes a successful agency partnership; the trust, the longevity and building something together.

Florian Alt
Creativebrief: What do you think makes a successful client agency relationship?
Florian Alt: Trust. I always say to the agencies that I work with, it’s not the typical ‘I’m the client, you’re the agency, go off and do what I want’. I see us as partners and the agency’s role is to sometimes push us towards things that we might feel slightly uncomfortable with because that’s where the magic happens. To do this, you need to trust that you have the right partner, that they understand your target consumer, your brand positioning and they understand where you want to go. I also believe you should have longevity in your agency relationships because if you jump agency that means you have to hire a new team to teach them what adidas is about, what adidas Football is about, what our consumer is about. Iris, which is a long-standing partner, have contributed a lot in terms of defining, understanding and being able to articulate ourselves towards the target consumer. I truly believe this is because we have gone through this process for a number of years now. We constantly push ourselves and further evolve, never standing still and always challenging, even though we had some pretty good successes along the way. We always had the ambition to keeping moving on and I believe this makes a successful agency partnership; the trust, the longevity and building something together.
Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for adidas over the next few years, where you would like to push the brand?
Florian Alt: In the last three years or so, we developed adidas Football into a new territory which we call ‘From the stadium to the street and back again’. This gave us fresh ideas and new momentum where we focused on the more cultural aspect of football as well, not only on what happens on the pitch. It has been very successful to an extent that we see a lot of other brands are also entering this field of play. Which is good because it shows we’ve developed something, and we’ve been a first mover. But for me, when other brands are starting to enter your ground, you need to leave it and embark on the next journey. My ambitions for 2020 and beyond are to push further and break new ground for adidas Football in how we speak to our consumers, where we put our focus, what are our key initiatives that we really believe resonate with the consumer which therefore also help us create desire and demand for our stories and products. Hopefully, I want to be as successful as what we’ve done over the last three years. And potentially another 20 years with the Three Stripes. No plans yet to leave this great brand.
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Creativebrief: Looking outside of the industry and outside your role, personally, who or what are you inspired by?
Florian Alt: Sport is still very inspiring to me personally. From sport you can take so many learnings but also analogies that you then can translate into professional life. It doesn’t need to be football but team sports in general. They have a huge impact on how kids start developing socially, how you interact with others, how you are able to perform within a bigger team. It’s also how you deal with gains and losses. You cannot always win so how do you then deal with the moments where you are not on the lucky side. I look a lot at how the overall climate in the world is developing because I understand my kids are growing up in a world with different opportunities, mindset and circumstances than what we grew up in. We need to be able to understand what this does to kids in a good but also bad way. Specifically, for us at adidas and for me personally, what role can sport play to turn some of the challenges those kids might face into positives and therefore make their lives a little bit more joyful? Our brand positioning is ‘Sport has the power to change lives’ and again I can reference back to our Tango communities approach. When you see kids who usually don’t play football because it’s either too expensive or they don’t have access to football pitches or they are not registered in a professional football club, to see them playing football, having joy, hanging out with friends is something that personally really inspires me. I truly believe this has much, much more power than a lot of other things in the world.

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