May 19, 2014

China's digital drivers: Make emotional mobile connections

PROMOTIONAL FEATURE: Adidas Greater China marketing VP Simon Millar says there’s no shortage of digital channels on which to run content; the trick, as always, is cutting through.

Millar: Content marketing enables brands to play a bigger role in consumers’ lives
Millar: Content marketing enables brands to play a bigger role in consumers’ lives

Youth-focused brands like Adidas essentially live or die on their digital media efforts. That is especially true for China’s seriously wired consumers. 

Simon Millar, vice-president of marketing for adidas Greater China, believes the greatest challenge in such a huge, fragmented digital market is to break through the clutter. “For Adidas, it’s important that we don’t create content for the sake of content, but that we create relevant content that will resonate with our target audience,” he tells Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Not surprisingly, the company is “constantly looking at how different platforms can amplify our engagement and brand experience.”

Digital360China Summit: Shanghai, 10 June 2014: Click for details.

There is no shortage of digital channels in China for the German multinational sports company to run its content marketing campaigns on. Millar says Adidas engages with customers through social media platforms like WeChat, as well as online video, web and mobile platforms. 

He says online video complements Adidas’ overall marketing strategy and offers “another medium to tell our story”, but stresses the need to take a holistic approach. “The important thing is to integrate these different channels.”

The company designed its digital communications to build awareness as well as offer opportunity for more transactions. For China’s increasingly discerning consumers “brands can’t just rely on products or the brand name to build loyalty and sell products”, he says. “They also need to build an emotional connection with consumers.”

These platforms can also be effective in driving people to purchase, Millar adds. For example, the Adidas WeChat account for its women’s marketing campaign directs users to the closest store locations, as well as providing fitness tips and updated product information. 

  • 2011 Vice-president marketing, sport style, Adidas Greater China
  • 2007 Marketing director, Adidas Pacific
  • 2005 Business unit manager, Adidas Australia
  • 2001 Senior merchandising manager, Nike EMEA

When it comes to social media campaigns that are really connected with consumers, he cites the award-winning ‘Real fans 925’ campaign during the UEFA European Championship 2012 finals. 

In a clever way of tackling the awkward time difference during the event, the company set up an online community where fans could “work” from 9pm to 5am, supporting their teams, painting their avatars in team colours and watching the matches together. They could also participate in online games and win Adidas products.

The launch of last year’s TVC campaign for the new Neo label combined traditional marketing channels with new media like WeChat in a way that generated awareness and buzz.

“To support the TVC, we developed an interactive mobile app where consumers could interact directly with the TVC and Neo Brand in real-time,” says Millar. “Using the app, consumers could capture products featured in the commercial to learn more about the products and also share them on social media. 

“Of course, the app also directed users on where they could purchase products. This not only generated awareness and buzz for Neo, but also helped generate sales.”

Millar, a science graduate from the University of Glasgow, joined Adidas in Melbourne in 2005 after eight years with Nike. He says content marketing gives companies other ways to tell their brand story, and also provides them with opportunities “to engage with consumers and play a bigger role in their day-to-day lives”. 

The mainstream adoption of the smartphone is undoubtedly one of the most exciting recent developments in China, Millar says. “We’re living in a multiscreen world,” he said. “As the world’s largest smartphone market, mobile is playing an increasingly important role in China. For marketers, this means we constantly need to be innovating.” 


Recognising strong desire among netizens to shape content, we introduced ‘Are You Normal’ to China. It’s a game show whereby public opinion dictates content. More than 5 million users participated via WeChat in the first two weeks. Users also like to analyse sports based on data through apps. Injecting a natural brand presence in such scenarios is key to effective multiscreen marketing. The power of platforms like WeChat, QQ and Qzone for brand influence cannot be ignored. Helping share content can bring exponential growth for advertisers.

Sophia Ong is national planning GM at Tencent Online Media Group


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