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adidas is all in – and why you should be too



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We may be going into 2012 but with PR agencies it still feels like 2006 at times.

I started Soccerlens.com way back in April 2006 – and one of the lasting memories of the last five and a half years has been the treatment of football bloggers by PR agencies promoting their clients. I say ‘treatment’ because there has been a very distinct pattern to the blogosphere-PR world relationship – we’ve gone from being completely ignored to being completely inundated and taken advantage of.

Look, I like free stuff as much as the next guy but being asked to give brands exposure – however limited – for free seemed like a stupid idea at the start and still seems stupid. As I wrote a last year ago in Football PR 101, marketing is simple – get to know your contact, treat them as real people and give them value first before you ask them to do something for you. Not everyone wants money, but if they do, you should either be willing to pay, or find another solution.

And this bring us to this week, when I got an email from a PR agency representing adidas (yes, the new guys). Now I’ve been working with adidas for a while – through their UK and global agencies, and the guys at Hill & Knowlton and WeAreSocial are some the best in the business (hat tip to Seb, Glen and Chris). these are long standing personal relationships – emphasis on personal – and they work even if we don’t always promote what thy send us.

The email I got – and I’m sure everyone else got as well – was poorly phrased. It wasn’t a big deal – I made a couple of tweets criticisng it (1, 2, 3 and 4) and left it at that. Since I knew the other PR guys personally and after all, I run a digital media agency myself, I know that this doesn’t mean that adidas don’t get blogging – their Own the Game event was spectacular – its just that some young kid was trying to impress and got it horribly wrong.

That wasn’t important though – what’s really important is how adidas reacted. They could have easily ignored it and swept it under the carpet, but here’s the classic example of how proactive engagement of your community can help turn a negative feedback into an overwhelmingly positive recommendation.

Immediately after my tweets, I had a Skype conversation with one of my adidas PR guys. The next day, I had a call with adidas UK‘s senior PR manager, and a follow up email from him and my second PR contact. The same day, my miCoach boots arrived – a complete coincidence, I’m sure, but for the purposes of this story I’d like to think that adidas rushed them through to me as a result of those conversations.

The key theme during all three conversations – how much they value us as a blogging partner and an apology for that out of context contact.

I’m not telling you this to score points or show how important we are – we’re not – and I know that they’d say the same to any other blog, but GODDAMMIT, adidas GET PR. They are, like the ad, all in when it comes to client relationships, and the same goes for their PR agencies. I came away impressed by their dedication to positively resolving what was, to be honest, a non issue and mostly a critique of the new PR agency itself.

We don’t care about free stuff most of the time – and given that the PR business is mostly about earned media, the need for personal relationships is greater than ever.

And that’s where adidas is miles ahead of the competition. I could talk to you about Nike and Umbro and Puma and their respective PR agencies, but why care about them when they don’t care about us?

adidas cares. And because they care, we care.

adidas is all in. If only other brands and PR agencies did the same, they would get so much better coverage from bloggers. Something to think about.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.