How We Hacked Transfer Deadline Day With Adidas


In January, we hacked transfer deadline day with cross-platform storytelling to put adidas football’s Predator boot at the heart of football culture. In this post, We Are Social Sport’s Lee Stobbs and Joe Brewin explain how we did it.

In We Are Social’s 2023 Think Forward: Sports Edition report, we note how storytelling on social media is no longer linear or following established structures.  

Stories don’t need to start at the beginning to get an audience hooked: the current landscape means they’re free to begin mid-narrative, fragmented as they are across different platforms and channels. 

Social is awash with cross-platform posting and narratives that start on one platform but finish on another, which spotlighted one thing: there is a huge opportunity for brands to tap into this behaviour change within culture to tell more deeply layered stories scattered across the internet for audiences to piece together in their own way.

It was with this spirit in mind that we addressed adidas’ brief to launch their new Predator Accuracy football boot in January. To the majority of fans, product launches like these are wallpaper: they might be everywhere, but for the most part they’re also instantly forgettable. 

Because familiarity is mundanity and mundanity is death. We needed to think of something that couldn’t be ignored. We weren’t just here to take part with #missnothing. We were here to disrupt – using every minute of the 24 hours we had to capture the football community’s attention.

Like adidas, we were tired of the usual toolkits with flat visuals. We needed to go beyond selling the boot itself, and instead dial up attention on the brand in three key ways: by playing with the football calendar, tapping into social culture and having fun with our audience’s feeds across multiple platforms. This was about being brave and creating content with edge.

With that, we took the boot’s primary feature of accuracy and flipped it on its head with a pointed cultural insight: our creative play would be to hack transfer deadline day, a peak social-first moment traditionally synonymous with misinformation and a day where we could elevate the value of hyper-accuracy, hero the new boot and generate a global splash through the power of narrative.

But to make big noise, you need to be talking on the audience’s terms, because a new Predator boot is not something they’ll be naturally talking about on social. Enter the Transfer Deadline Day squad – our carefully chosen team of undercover influencers, bait-dropping transfer in-the-knows and, Mr Deadline Day himself, Fabrizio Romano, to help blast adidas Football into the heart of the action. 

On the morning of January 31, we would start the rumour of a transfer within the adidas family, fuelling it throughout the day with cross-platform creative that locked in a global audience. 

From football’s go-to barber of the stars linking up on IG Story with an Arsenal midfielder, brand photographer Matt Gordon live-posting on set of a shoot, to fake WhatsApp leaks and an “accidental” IG Live screen record cross-pollinating to Twitter, our key partner activations and carefully crafted CM sent the rumour mill into overdrive. Our audience could join the hunt for clues via Instagram, Twitter and even Reddit. Would users #missnothing during the day and call us out before our big reveal?

Amid the buzz, gossip and speculation that ensued, some people got it right… but a lot more got it wrong. Really wrong. On a day where players and clubs hog the spotlight, we also had millions talking adidas football. The numbers baked up the hype: 150m+ impressions, 5.5m+ video views and 609,527 likes. Massive reach. Worldwide notoriety.

As we approached the reveal, we made reactive decisions around the announcement to avoid it getting lost on timelines, with multiple transfer news stories breaking at the time – and it worked: adidas’ reveal post for the new Predator Accuracy hit differently, featuring Barcelona star Pedri – a new player transferring to the legendary franchise. An authentic narrative wrapped up the story, creating a focal point for energy as the deadline passed and conversation continued.

We didn’t stop there. To take this conversation even further, we used the reach and seismic influence of transfer guru Fabrizio Romano’s channels (a combined 27.6m followers on Twitter and Instagram) as a brand partner for the drop – the perfect space to amplify our messaging at a time when social was furiously refreshing his feeds before the deadline. Romano’s involvement powered up the pay-off, hitting users’ timelines like no other boot drop and earning a stack of wider coverage. It was cross-platform storytelling executed in a way that no-one invested in Transfer Deadline Day could miss it.

Best of all, we championed those who missed nothing and called out any of our subtle brand iconography hints in every creative touchpoint by rewarding them with community management clout and a brand-new pair of the Predator boots to wrap up our ruse with positive sentiment. Because what’s a game without reward?

This wasn’t your regular boot drop. This was culturally driven, social storytelling 2.0. A 24 hour activation with long-term impact. Official, confirmed – game changing sports marketing for @adidasfootball. Here we go!

For more information about Think Forward: Sports Edition, click here.