Technology of the Year: Adidas' 'Here to Create Legend'
30,000-plus personalized videos
Less than 24 hours
Adidas' video achievement made for a marketing message with emotional resonance that lasted long after the race and signals how sports sponsorships can achieve a deeper sense of purpose in the digital era.
The Boston Marathon is a daunting challenge even for seasoned athletes, and this year, Adidas decided to tackle an immense marketing feat of its own to honor 30 years partnered with the Boston Athletic Association. Around the 122nd annual race, the brand pledged to make personalized videos for each of the more than 30,000 registered runners — and have those videos ready to view just a few hours after they crossed the finish line.
Sound impossible? Not too long ago, the "Here to Create Legend" campaign might've been, but Adidas was able to pull off the trick to great fanfare thanks to its use of location-based technology, data, digital video and more. The achievement comes at a time when personalization is growing increasingly important, but is often an area where marketers miss the mark. Other brands have tried for large-scale content plays like this — rival Nike sent out 100,000 unique animated videos to Nike+ members back in 2015 — but few have completed them on such a short deadline and without major technical hiccups.
Of course, Adidas had help in the form of agency Grow, a rapid-fire video personalization platform provided by vendor Idomoo and a dedicated crew on the ground. Together, the apparel maker and its partners were able to deliver on their promises. Most importantly, they were able to do so during a moment of triumph for the intended audience, making for a marketing message with emotional resonance that lasted long after the race and signaling how sports sponsorships can achieve a deeper sense of purpose in the digital era.
"Our idea was to harness the power of 30,000 runners — generating data from the very race bibs that sport the Adidas logo — and transform the entire race into a creation engine," Drew Ungvarsky, CEO and executive creative director at Grow, said in a statement included in an Idomoo case study. "The result is an epic personal highlight film for every single runner who becomes part of the legend of this incredible event."
A marathon and a sprint
Shooting 30,000 videos around a 26.2-mile crowded race course obviously took more than just hitting the record button and letting the reel run. To nail down the personalization aspect of the campaign, Adidas embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in racers' bibs that tracked data on things like racers' running pace and time.
The chips linked with street mats transmitting ultra-high frequency radio signals via antennae, which would then feed the runners' data to Adidas' teams. On-site, the brand dispersed an 18-person production crew to shoot footage at different points along the track that could then be quickly cut into a highlight film. The process was facilitated with help from Idomoo, whose Personalized Video as a Service platform, or PVaaS, claims to be able to render video at 10 times real-time speed.
Overall, 27 hours of raw footage were filmed on eight cameras at the marathon, according to Adweek. Given the small size of the crew, the scale of the project and the short deadline, it made for a hectic 24-hour sprint — but one that was more than worth it.
Road to redemption
Beyond being able to provide runners with a powerful piece of memorabilia, Adidas' innovative campaign around the Boston Marathon this year came as a bit of redemption for the brand. At last year's race, the retailer drew flak for a promotional email to runners reading "Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!"
Sales spikeSource: Idomoo
The post, while well intentioned, also summoned sharp memories of the 2013 Boston Bombing, leading to public outcry. "Here to Create Legend," through its innovative application of marketing technology, created the opposite effect, generating positive earned media in trade publications including Adweek, PR Week, Entrepreneur and The Drum, as well as hobby-focused verticals like Runner's World. Most importantly, it appeared to resonate with participants.
In a post-campaign analysis, Idomoo reported that 57% of runners who completed the race viewed their video, and over one-quarter shared the content on Facebook. On social channels overall, the custom content drew hundreds of thousands of views and a 95% video completion rate, according to Idomoo. That translated to business performance for Adidas, driving 80,000 visitors to the brand's web properties and spiking product sales via email by 1,189%.
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