Adidas' communications chief: never stop learning

Florian Alt: senior director, global brand communications, Adidas
Florian Alt: senior director, global brand communications, Adidas

Florian Alt, senior director, global brand communications, Adidas, shares his insights on engaging with his team and consumers

Don’t assume you know it all

My leadership style is collaborative and at eye-level with my teams. There is so much great knowledge and creativity among the people I work with – irrespective of the individual’s level or experience – it would be stupid to think that I know better about everything. A great idea can come from anyone; from interns to directors. It’s important to let people be a part of the journey you are on and face the same challenges you are facing; you need to let them contribute to finding solutions. The results will be much better that way than if you dictate the way things are done, and all they do is execute your plan. It’s important that everyone in the team collaborates; that they feel like they are contributing to the bigger picture. By going about it this way, the whole team feels part of the success we bring.

Try and try again

Before my current role I worked across every different discipline in the marketing mix – starting in retail, followed by brand comms and PR and social as part of our World Cup 2014 activations. Working across a wide array of disciplines has given me a deeper understanding of, and important insight into, all the different areas of the business. This, in turn, has enabled me to provide a well-balanced campaign approach across all marketing touchpoints. You have to keep up to date with what is happening out there, as the landscape is constantly evolving and changing. Traditional marketing models are dead and the world is changing faster than ever before. You need to keep your finger on the pulse, be courageous and try out new things – some might work, some might not. It’s OK for things not to work; the important thing is that you understand why they didn’t work and what you can do next time to make it better. If you don’t try something out, you have lost already. It’s important to try to be the first mover in your area.

Expect the unexpected

As with all sports there is always going to be a mix of ups and downs. You need to enjoy the ups and learn from the downs. It would be wrong to think you will never fail. Of course, I always strive for the best possible campaigns and outcomes, but there are moments where things can take a different direction from what was planned, and therefore results might be not as expected. When this happens, analyse what went wrong, adjust if you still can, and if not, move on and don’t make the same mistake twice. We live in times where being able to constantly re-invent is the key. This is what our consumers do all the time and so do we. It’s a really exciting time to work in the industry and it’s important that we don’t rest on our laurels; we always need to be thinking: "What’s the next big thing we can do that will shift people’s thinking? What can we do to inspire them?"

Build connections

Make sure you understand your consumer and be honest with them. It might sound like an obvious thing to say, but it’s true. The closer you are to them, the more you speak their language and live their lives, the easier it is to communicate with them. Kids are smarter and more informed than ever before and will call you out immediately if you aren’t serious about what you are doing. The more you immerse yourself in their world, the better you will understand and know what they are looking for. And do it together with them, let them be part of your journey, invite them to co-create with you and give them an active role. We are building communities around the world that allow those kids to directly interact with our brand and become a part of it.

Stick with your convictions

As a consequence of the above insights, we have radically changed our tone of voice and communications approach for Adidas football. Starting in 2015 with "There will be haters", we started to speak the language of our young creators. The acceptance and reaction since then has been great. If you really want to communicate with your target audience, if you want them to really understand what you’re trying to portray and the message you’re trying to deliver, you need to speak in a way that they understand. One that they’re used to and that they can relate to. Over the past two and a half years we have kept evolving this approach, and, so far, it’s proved successful. It wasn’t always easy – especially in the beginning – to convince people both internally and externally that this was, and is, the right thing to do; it was quite a mind-shift back then.

Florian Alt is the senior director, global brand communications, at Adidas

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