September 24, 2018Published by: Joe Cant

It was a battle of the brands at the Berlin Marathon, but did Nike beat event sponsor Adidas to the social media crown?

The competition is as fierce as ever in the world of sports brands. The most recent example of this was the 2018 Berlin Marathon, an event still fresh in the minds of at least 45,000 participants and the rest of the running world, following Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge’s stunning new world record time.

Kipchoge was wearing Nike's latest running shoe: the orange and white Zoom Fly 4%, which was worn by 95% of the leading pack. The lead sports sponsor, however, was German brand Adidas.

If you were at the event, you couldn’t fail to miss the 26.2 miles of predominantly Adidas banners lining the fenced streets of Berlin, along with some slick-looking official merchandise, volunteer clothing, finish line arch (and carpet), and environmentally-friendly reusable cups donning the famous three stripes. Even soccer fans went to see the event since many are a fan of Adidas signature shoes. You can take a look at Shoe Adviser's blog post about shoes for indoor soccer.

With such blanket Adidas branding at the event, Nike adopted a different and smart approach. It focused its attention on the Marathon Expo, which took place a day before the race, at the former Flughafen Tempelhof airfield, which was beautifully branded by I Love Dust. The American sportswear giant packed public transport stations with its 'fast as F4%K’ advert in most stops along the route to the Marathon Expo and had a huge black showspace at the show. In addition, Nike posters could be seen on lampposts everywhere around the city. It was an interesting counterpoint to Adidas’ big corporate sponsorship and indicative of the branding differences of the two sports giants.

Ultimately, though, which had the biggest impact? During the marathon weekend (Friday-Monday), the total number of impressions and mentions for Nike or Adidas on social media was 4.95m, with Instagram dominating the conversation. Unsurprisingly, the overall sentiment of these posts was positive when mentioning both brands (67.67% positive, 17.83% neutral, 13.12% mixed, 1.38% negative).

With 61,390 runners from 133 nations in town for the race, participants and spectators were clearly keen to post about their favoured sports brand around the big race. Posts mentioning Adidas, or any of their main social accounts, brought in 559 posts over the weekend, which wasn’t as impactful as Nike fans’ 712 posts, although designs in the campaign Nike put out arguably had a stronger visual impact. However, Adidas did garner more impressions on social media (2.98m compared to Nike’s 1.97m), but was this because we were in Adidas’ home country, or did it simply choose the right event to partner with and throw down the big bucks?

With no clear winner on social media, there are still a few things we can learn from both brands around this event...

Nike demonstrated that you don’t have to be the ‘official’ corporate sponsor to have a foot in the race. The brand has a knack of having a culturally relevant edge, thinking smarter with product placement, creative media planning and an inspirational campaign. In line with its “Breaking 2” event and ‘Just Do It’ messaging, Nike was able to keep traction in the race. Ultimately, Nike told a more compelling story and stuck to its brand values to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”. Its campaign around the marathon epitomises the lifestyle feel of the company and brought a real ‘for the people’ message, cementing its latest product as the ‘must have’ trainer, even before it crossed the line in record time.

Adidas, however, showed that by getting eyeballs on the right event and sport in the right country, a brand can still generate big numbers on social. If you’d have been to the expo on the day before the marathon hoping to get some merchandise, you were probably already too late. Not many things make more of an impression than seeing the famous three stripes throughout the whole race, whether you’re a spectator or runner. Marathons leave a memorable imprint in your mind, and with all those athletes passing through the Brandenburg Tor, founder Adi Dassler would be proud!

Since the marathon, Nike has had a lot to shout about, with Kipchoge breaking the world record by a huge 1m 18s in its shoe and cementing himself as the greatest marathon runner ever. Nike also timed its running part in current ‘Just Do It’ campaign extremely well, which you can watch here. Adidas, although disappointingly quiet on social media throughout the whole weekend, did upload a great video to its Adidas Running Club account in regards to the event, which you can watch here, as well as some Stories on Instagram that you can see here.

Nike might have crossed the line first but, it had to make its way through 42.2km of Adidas’ banners on its way to victory! Should we call it a dead heat?

Joe Cant, 03:24:08 - Running in Adidas Supernova

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