Battle of the brands’ social media strategies: Nike v Adidas

A look into how two of the biggest sportswear brands use social media to drive their digital marketing campaigns and what we can learn from them.

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Alexis Pratsides


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What brand is performing best online, Nike or Adidas?

Nike and Adidas are two of the world’s most iconic brands easily identified by the famous swoosh and three stripes logo. Brandwatch recently reported that Adidas features in over 6 million images and Nike features in over 5 million on Instagram and Twitter each month indicating that they’re highly visible online and popular. For many years Nike has outpaced Adidas, but Adidas has become huge competition meaning they have to come up with innovative ways to market their products.

Both brands have had to adapt to digital storefronts and social media to drive sales. As such, they spend an incredible amount on digital advertising and investment into social media management. Both brands have run successful campaigns on their social media channels. This is evident through campaign results, which in turn drives sales and further awareness of the brand, demonstrating the power of effective social media campaigns.

Social media numbers

Both brands have a staggering number of followers, subscribers, and likes on social media. Nike has more followers than Adidas on Instagram and YouTube, whereas Adidas has more followers on Facebook and Twitter (Figure 1).

Graph showing the number of social media followers Nike and Adidas have in comparison to one another
Figure 1 – Graph showing the number of followers, likes and subscribers across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (UK accounts) and YouTube for Nike and Adidas. Data is from November 2018.

Below are some of their best social media campaigns over the last few years.

The best Nike social media campaigns

Man jumping in the air on a bridge wear Nike trainers

Risk anything World Cup campaign

Nike released their Risk Anything campaign for the 2014 World Cup and again for the 2018 World Cup. They featured the world’s most famous football players and used #RiskEverything which was trending in early June. The campaign generated over 240 million YouTube views making them the most watched marketer during the event despite not being the official sponsor.

Facebook AR messenger campaign

Nike used Facebook Messenger’s beta augmented reality (AR) feature showcasing their new shoes. Users had to follow a series of steps as shown in figure 2 to view the shoes. Upon exiting the final step they were offered the opportunity to buy the trainer consequently, the trainer sold out in under an hour.

Faebook AR messenger campaign by Nike
Figure 2 – Summary of the user flow that customers had to take during this campaign. Source:

#Breaking2 campaign

Nike set out to break the two-hour marathon limit collaborating with National Geographic to create a documentary which has nearly 4 million YouTube views. The race was livestreamed on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube where 13.1 million people watched the record attempt. Digiday reported that Nike achieved over 500,000 mentions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram during the week surrounding the event and #Breaking2 generated more than two trillion impressions. Nike’s Vaporfly trainer was used during the marathon showcasing their performance benefits.

#JustDoIt campaign

Nike announced Colin Kaepernick as the face of their #JustDoIt campaign this year, which has been deemed controversial. However, the campaign generated 170,000 Instagram followers during release, had over 2 million Twitter mentions and has 25 million YouTube views.

Nike released their Risk Anything campaign for the 2014 World Cup and again for the 2018 World Cup. They featured the world’s most famous football players and used #RiskEverything which was trending in early June. The campaign generated over 240 million YouTube views making them the most-watched marketer during the event despite not being the official sponsor.

The best Adidas social media campaigns

Close up of Adidas Gazelle trainers in black

Tango squads campaign

Adidas targeted micro-influencers on social media creating a private Messenger group giving them exclusive access to Adidas football content, new product reveals and opportunities to work with their sponsored clubs and players. They also created long-form videos uploaded to their YouTube channel creating a playlist featuring the episodes. The longest episode of 25 minutes has close to 6 million views on YouTube and the second-longest at 17 minutes has created retention rates of 50% and over 600,000 views.

#MyNeoShoot campaign

This campaign focused on the youth and user generated content. They encouraged fans to share their own content using the #MyNeoShoot hashtag to be within a chance of modelling in the next spring campaign. Campaign results included sales increasing by 24.2% between January 2015 and 2016, the hashtag received over 71,000 references and there were over 12,000 entries. Their own Instagram grew by 41,000 followers in one month.

All-in or nothing challenge

During the 2014 World Cup they launched an online game giving users a chance to win a variety of prizes including an official ball used during the tournaments. Users had to find hidden footballs around the world on Google Maps and street views and had to answer questions about Adidas at previous world cups and their sponsored athletes. The campaign gained 1.5 million unique interactions online and 1.2 million views on their YouTube videos that were used to promote the challenge.

Boston marathon campaign

They created personalised videos for each participant, which was easily shareable on their social media. Adweek reported that the videos achieved 100,000 views two days after the race. Additionally, there was over 80,000 visits to the campaign website and over 13,000 visitors continuing on to itself.

Key takeaways

Listed below are the key findings taken from this insight into some of Nike and Adidas’s successful digital marketing campaigns. Use these to start achieving results and implementing effective and market leading social media campaigns.

  1. Use hashtags – these allow people to directly relate their content to your brand and campaign that you’re running, accumulating user generated content and a sense of community among fans.
  2. Engage with your audience – engaging with your audience on social media is important. Engagement includes replying to comments left by Facebook followers, or answering FAQs and queries sent to your Twitter account.
  3. Go cross-channel – launching campaigns across multiple social media channels allows you to reach a large audience and reach people who may only be on one social media channel.
  4. Be innovative – as demonstrated by Nike’s Facebook Messenger’s AR technology campaign, staying innovative with social media campaigns is imperative in the constantly changing digital and social media market. Staying innovative allows you to make use of new technologies and stay-up-to-date.
  5. Generate a conversation – starting a discussion with your followers on social media allows you to engage with your audience.
  6. Get personal – personalisation is extremely important evidenced by Adidas’s Boston Marathon campaign. Personalisation indicates that you care about your customers and view them as more.

Enjoy our Battle of the Brands?

If you enjoyed this round of our Battle of the Brands, then check out Aldi vs Lidl, where we pit the social media marketing of 2 of our nation’s top supermarket brands. We also examine marketing in the cosmetic industry with Nars vs Mac, comparing these make up brands’ social media campaigns to see who was the most successful.

If you would like to start achieving results, driving sales through your social media channels and have market leading digital marketing campaigns, then get in contact with one of our digital marketing experts today! We look forward to hearing from you.

Created by

Alexis Pratsides

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