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Cross Promotion Case Study


Done well, marketing partnerships can stretch your budget

These days, cross-promotions are everywhere. Big companies like MCI and major airlines team up to offer frequent-flier miles for placing calls, while the local dry cleaner and tailor give discounts to each other's customers. According to consultant Kare Anderson, such alliances keep growing more popular. "They've been springing up even more in the past 18 months," she says.

Anderson, president of the Compelling Communications Group, in Sausalito, Calif., is not sure exactly why cross-promotions are spreading. Critical mass may be a factor: as more businesses run joint promotions, still others try them. Or perhaps it's just that successful cross-promotions reward companies with increased market share and better brand awareness--often at an attractive price. That local dry cleaner and nearby tailor can dip into each other's markets and increase visibility for the cost of a coupon.

Sound simple? It's not. Just as smart cross-promotions offer chances to reach promising new markets and customers, poorly planned ones bring fresh opportunities to waste time and money. (See "Cross-Promotion from Hell," below.) When you join forces with another company, you're linking reputations as well--so choose your partners carefully. Obviously, you want to work with a company that's reputable and trustworthy. However, you also want one that offers something extra, such as marketing resources you lack or access to markets you can't reach. Before you sign up for any cross-promotion, ask the following questions:

Are we a natural fit? Joel and Judy Kimmel, co-owners of Primo's, a $600,000 chain of three San Francisco-area specialty coffee shops, are old hands at cross-promotions. But the Kimmels knew they had found an ideal match last year when they teamed with Charlotte Albright, owner of local candy maker Sweet Charlottes. The reason? Both companies have similar clientele and reputations for high quality. Now Primo's sells Sweet Charlottes chocolates and offers free samples with its espresso. In return, the chocolate shop gives customers coupons for espresso and sells Primo's coffee beans in bulk. Customers have responded so well that the trio is test-marketing a potential new niche: cafÉs showcasing both coffee and chocolate.

Do we enhance each other's credibility? Sometimes there really is strength in numbers--particularly for very small businesses. Just ask Betty Hedrick, president of the Hedrick Co., in Mercer Island, Wash. By cross-promoting her $500,000 financial-planning business with six other small business-to-business service providers, Hedrick gains access to new prospects and enhances her company's image. Her method? The companies jointly produce a quarterly newsletter and mail it to all their clients. For any of the companies alone, a newsletter might prove too taxing and costly. Working together keeps costs affordable. Plus, the shared newsletter "expands the types of expertise available to our clients," says Hedrick.

Do we bring different resources to the table? Sam Poole, CEO of Maxis Inc., a $55-million software company, wanted to promote his kids' line to mothers and children. After some research, Poole's Walnut Creek, Calif., company asked an established cookie manufacturer, Mother's Cake & Cookie Co., to do a cross-promotion involving free software for schools. The cookie company put a Maxis coupon on its packages, and Maxis advertised the joint promotion in computer stores. Poole says sales of children's software rose 13% during the three-month cross-promotion.

Is the sum of our parts greater than the whole? When Judy Cockerton, co-owner of No Kidding!, a $1.2-million toy store in Brookline, Mass., and Toy Box, a $500,000 shop in Mattapoisett, Mass., is out of a toy, she knows what to do. She phones a competitor. That's because her company last year formed a marketing alliance with five other area independent toy retailers to battle a common enemy: big toy chains. Now when she explains her toy shortage to one of her fellow cross-promoters, the other store takes the order over the phone at no extra charge. Though careful to avoid antitrust violations by discussing pricing, the group cohosts promotional parties, holds joint raffles, offers a collective frequent-buyer card, and shares bulk discounts. "When you're competing with all the specialty franchises and Toys 'R' Us, this seems to be the smartest way to do it," says Cockerton.

Case study: Cross-Promotion from Hell

One appeal of a cross-promotion is the chance to identify new potential customers. But what if they're the wrong prospects? Maxis CEO Sam Poole remembers when, at another software company, he created a cross-promotion with computer retailers and a diskette maker. The promotion enticed prospective product buyers with a sweepstakes for free Super Bowl tickets, with excellent seats. "It sounded so cool," Poole recollects.

The trouble was, he was right. "We had thousands of requests from all over the country," he says. The offer was so attractive, it was relayed around the nation through sweepstakes newsletters. Since the company had billed the contest as a sweepstakes, it couldn't, by law, ignore the voluminous requests for entry forms. "It didn't matter if people owned a computer or not," gripes Poole. "The vast majority probably didn't." To handle the requests, Poole had to hire part-timers, print extra coupons, and in some states, mail stamps to contestants in accordance with state regulations. Not surprisingly, increased sales didn't cover costs.


For lots of quick tips on cross-promotions, read Pocket Cross-Promotion, by Kare Anderson (MasterMedia Limited, 1996, $8.95). To request a copy directly, send E-mail to kareand@aol.com or order the book from Anderson's Web site. Add $1.05 for tax and postage.

JUDY COCKERTON, No Kidding!, 19 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02146; 617-739-2477 99

COMPELLING COMMUNICATIONS GROUP, Kare C. Anderson, 15 Sausalito Blvd., Sausalito, CA 94965; 415-331-6336; kareand@aol.com 99

HEDRICK CO., Betty Hedrick, 2835 82nd Ave. SE, #310, Mercer Island, WA 98040; 800-722-8807 or 206-232-8807; bettyh@nwgroup.com 99

MAXIS, 2121 N. California Blvd., Suite 600, Walnut Creek, CA 94596; 510-933-5630; www.maxis.com 99

SWEET CHARLOTTES, Charlotte Albright, 1395 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030; 415-589-1417 99

MOTHER'S CAKE & COOKIE CO., 810 81st Ave., Oakland, CA 94621; 510-569-2323 99

PRIMO'S COFFEE, Joel and Judy Kimmel, 150 Shoreline Highway, Suite B20, Mill Valley, CA 94941; 415-289-2425 99

Adidas are a global brand; a sporting superpower that sell quality products and deal with the biggest stars in sports. It’s not just about products though, they are awesome at social media marketing. We take a look at why this is in our latest case study…

Channel analysis


Adidas are a huge company. It’s no surprise that they have several sectors to the business and each requires its own social media presence across the major social networks which of course includes Twitter. In this case study I will be concentrating on the general Adidas channels, not focused on the sector accounts as much.

Below is a screenshot of the @adidas Twitter profile. By verifying their account, their 2.09M followers and many more can easily find their profile. This account mainly retweets the other Adidas brand accounts and brings together the Adidas brand as a whole. The retweets are mostly of videos and images posted by the brand accounts and then promoted on this account.

Some of the tweets I can see are planned for real-time use based around events. One example is the UEFA Champions League Final, during the match the athletes using Adidas equipment were used in images created in case of a key event in the match. For example, Luis Suarez and Alvaro Morata scored in the match and are both athletes who use Adidas equipment and because of this, during the match they tweeted an image of these athletes using the trending hashtag for the match. As a global brand getting involved in an event most of the world was interested in, they got a lot of engagement. This is very good planning and good Twitter marketing!



Again, Adidas have a lot of brand channels dedicated to different sectors of their company.
Their Facebook page shows the same header image branding but a different logo. However, Adidas are so well known as a brand that the logo is similar in design to the Twitter profile picture and it is still recognizable. They have an extremely large fan base on Facebook, again due to their brand name being known worldwide.

One of the ways I think that Adidas kill it on social media is by integrating their other brand channels into their existing channels. The Videos tab on their Facebook page obviously contains the same content from the YouTube channels and as a result, also their other Facebook pages within relevance. I see this as quite similar to sharing a blog post through every member of staff’s social media accounts. Cross promotion.

They do post the video content that they have and the other visual content that they have used on other social channels, this is a good way to get the full use out of any content you have. One way I can see that Adidas gain influence on Facebook is how they like other pages, but more specifically they share the content and get their content shared on these pages. They like pages that are created for the clients they have, the sportsmen and women they work with and their clubs/ national teams or associations. If Adidas release new equipment, these pages could share the content to their audience if they will be using it, this would come as some news for both parties. News for Adidas, they have a new product. News for the athlete, they will be using this new piece of equipment.


Once again, Adidas have used the same branding on the header image and one of the same logos. They have fully connected their social media channels and other brand accounts to this account using the ‘featured channels’ section and the profile information.
The featured video is obviously a recent campaign that the company are running but is relevant for this channel. Each channel uses a more relevant and specific campaign focused featured video, but as the general Adidas account this channel will not be as focused on one area of the company and it’s products. This way it can become the leader of the brand accounts, be more broad in it’s appeal to an audience and then influence it’s audience to look toward the other accounts that the brand has set up.

This account has only 40 videos. BUT… they have added playlists for the videos that come from the other Adidas brand accounts. They have 27 playlists at the moment and this way can collate the content that is relevant to them without being too in favor of one sector of the business. There is not noticeably more content around Football, or clothing or particular sports in the playlists.


If you have a great product, or even better a lot of great products your social media channels can become very visual. Adidas take visual social media such as Instagram seriously and get very serious results because of that. The post below got over 100 thousand likes in less than a day. Why? Their product is awesome. With awesome content they can create social media content around the products and athletes they are associated and in partnership with.

It’s not even all about selling products. The Adidas Instagram is used to generate awareness of the brand and the products. The great visual content on the channel helps drive more enthusiasm and thirst from the user to get Adidas products. Adidas do get a huge amount of engagement, which means the brand has a very high influence. This boosts their Klout score and will make their other social media channels more influential too because as you grow your influence and audience you become more of a trusted source of quality content.

With regards to real time marketing, Instagram is a social channel Adidas use well. For example, in the build up the to FIFA Women’s World Cup in Montreal, Adidas supplied the match balls. They posted a picture of the final match ball with a view of the stadium used for the final match and used the location Montreal so that people in or searching for this location would discover this content. This adds another way of getting their brand seen and engaged with, not just through hashtags and their existing following.

Great Content

One way that we can see it’s not quite as difficult for other companies than it is for Adidas to start marketing is that they already have excellent, world renowned products. In a sense, nothing they want to sell is a hard sell and they already have the deals in place for huge stars in lots of sports to wear and endorse their products. People lap up sport video, which is another reason why just a video of a contracted athlete wearing their products would go so far for Adidas. One such campaign is the There Will Be Haters (see below) launch with the new Adidas football boots. Launched featuring adverts and videos created with stars like Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez and James Rodriquez went viral simply because of the profile of the stars and the products.

That doesn’t mean to say the campaign wasn’t very good, but there was an element of assistance from the pre-existing profiles both Adidas and the players already have.

Aside from that Adidas are looking to inspire and make you want to be like these athletes and then buy the same equipment they use (Adidas products), the  content is so good that people will just watch it either way. Do avid football fans want to see Karim Benzema, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale in a new football advert? Yes, I for one do. Even if I just want to see the latest commercial starring the best footballers on the planet, I would still watch this over and over. Why? These athletes are in-demand and that’s why Adidas are working with them in these videos.

People want to hear, see or get close to the athletes and heroes they have. Even if the viewers do not actually want to buy the products, they might share the content and their connections might want to. That’s the value Adidas get from having such a good industry standing and the way they can work with these stars.

What makes Adidas different?

If you know a lot about sport and brands like Adidas, you will know that Nike are perhaps their main competitor. Nike focus on the athletes that are contracted to use their equipment and this separates the 2 brands clearly. Adidas use similar methods to Nike, they share great content based around their brand and industry and because of their brand they get huge responses from it. But what makes Adidas different?

Adidas very much stick to an enforced company culture and set of values which make them different to their competitors. In comparison to Nike, they are not as fierce as a brand. Adidas offer equipment and products for the all round sportsman or woman ranging from beginner level to professional standard use. The way in which Adidas are more of a “good guy” brand is important. Not that Nike are “bad guys” at all, but their premiere athletes such as Cristiano Ronaldo can be portrayed in this way at times and this perhaps gets swept into the Nike brand through the content they produce around these stars. As an example, Nike produced a video for the launch of Cristiano Ronaldo’s new football boots, focusing solely on him being a superstar and “out of this world” (see below).

Adidas haven’t quite taken such a stance. They haven’t gone for “best in the world”, but they recognize that their athletes are global stars. This is how I think Adidas are different, they do not commit to statements that are debatable. By this I am referring to calling Cristiano Ronaldo the best in the world at Football, at the time he had won an award to give him such a claim but lets not forget that Lionel Messi is contracted to Adidas. He won the same award the previous 3 years to this, no such claims.

In terms of social media, I think Adidas have worked out a hierarchy for their social media channels. The general Adidas account oversees and collates the content of the other channels as if to promote that content as part of the brand. As we saw with Twitter, the Adidas account shared the content from the other brand channels as well as some of it’s own. I personally feel like doing this elevates the general brand Adidas and then helps the brand draw attention to it’s more specific areas, including the specific sports accounts or the women’s accounts. If you become attracted to the leader account and see that it is sharing the other brand accounts, you might be inclined to pay more attention to that account and the products they are sharing or promote.

Key lessons

Based on this research I think that there are a few lessons we can learn from how Adidas use social media. I think the key ones for us are:

  • Having a clear strategy (how Adidas use separate accounts)
  • Visual content is awesome
  • Real time marketing gets engagement and results
  • “Great content” is essential

What do you think? Get in touch with us on social media and share this post with your connections!

Ollie Whitfield

My job is a joy every day because of the work I get to do and the people I get to work with and for. I train and advise our clients on their digital strategy, social and content. When I go home from the office I’m a freelance content writer. Get to know me and you’ll certainly hear about my 6-a-side football team, pool playing and all of the sport news.

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