#POGBACK: What Can Digital Marketing Learn From This Epic Saga?


Whether you follow football or not, it has been impossible to avoid the swirling transfer saga between a certain young man by the name of Paul Pogba and Manchester United. 

The use of social media and digital marketing strategy by Adidas, Pogba's representatives and United themselves has been a textbook case of generating interest in a product and promoting brands, ideas and companies on-line.

So here we take a look at what exactly, we as digital marketeers, can take from this frankly epic transfer saga.  


So what's happened? 

For those of you who missed it: a 19 year old Pogba left Manchester 4 years ago, only to return to the tune of a little under £100 million. The move simultaneously made Pogba the most expensive footballer ever and caused an estimated 7.21million people worldwide to tweet his name...at 1am GMT!


map of pogba tweets


All parties involved have been the subject of press and social media speculation for nearly 3 months. However, how much of which has been created by Adidas and it's associates?

Alongisde Manchester United and Pogba's representatives, Adidas have used their combined social media power to whip up interest surround the move. This was not your average football saga, and Adidas ensured you knew about it! 

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Brilliant digital marketing

The saga underlines the power of social media for increasing interest, engagement and brand recognition in a product - Pogba - that has transcended football.

We as digital marketeers can learn a lot from the carefully crafted activity in the preceding months, days and even hours leading up to the announcement. Each of these colossal brands ensured that their messaging aligned in order to emphasise that something huge was coming.

"Far reaching hysteria and social meltdown is the outcome Adidas have cultivated and nurtured this summer to great effect.
Combining the worlds of music and football across the social channel has whipped up the excitement and hyperbole of a major footballing transfer story and led to highly desirable brand engagement."

Marcus Marsh, Head of Digital, Purple Frog 



Aligning messages

With a combined Twitter following of nearly 14 million and an Instagram reach - of a frankly unbelievable - 34.6 million, it was hard to miss a beat surrounding this story and stresses the importance of going on a journey with an audience that they will want to engage with.

Mino Raiola (Pogba's agent) kicked things off with a cryptic tweet stating: 


pogba tweet agent


Taken as an one-off this may have appeared the normal rumour dismissing comment that is common-place in football. However less than 6 days later Adidas launch their 'Blah blah blah' campaign with videos, tweets and Instagram posts involving Pogba and it's other cultural icons. 


adidas pogba tweet


The alignment of messaging has to be admired here. Raiola's tweet prepared Adidas' audience - who were already following the Pogba saga - for the 'Blah' campaign as well as igniting the conversation around the proposed move.

This encouraged people who were already engaged to share Adidas' content and spread the reach of the campaign. As Rand Fiskin always notes: its easier to join a conversation than start one!

The user engagement was huge with Adidas content receiving thousands of likes, retweets and shares across its social channels. This illustrates the importance in creating a time line of events and telling a story that your customers can interact with


Creating interest

Another big player has been the grime MC, Stormzy. A well-known Man Utd fan, he appeared in a cropped grim music video wearing a Pogba Man Utd shirt as well as starring Pogba himself.

The video was dropped 4 hours before the official announcement before being quickly deleted, and all but confirming Pogba's transfer. This seems just too good to be true and underlines the ability of this campaign to transcend industry's.


pogba stormyz video


For a campaign so brilliantly timed, the marketer in me thinks that this was just another fantastically orchestrated play by Adidas and it's partners. By the time Manchester United and Pogba released the news at 1am, the conversation has already been going long enough for the news to viberated around twitter with maximum effect. 

The scheduling throughout the campaign has been awesome. Every finite detail has been carefully constructured to have maximum impact.

Man Utd, Pogba, Raiola and Adidas ensured that there were just 10 minutes between their announcements, resulting 7.3 million tweets being sent worldwide


adidas pogba tweet


It is also worth mentioning that according to Nick Ames of The Guardian, 1am was chosen to line-up with Asia and American time zones rather than European as these were seen as more desirable markets. Every aspect of this campaign was beautifully managed.



What can we take from this epic saga? Mainly the importance in having a marketing strategy in place and thoroughly thinking through the various aspects of any campaign.

The interest and conversations generated around Adidas and Manchester United as brands has been immense and one wonders who got the ball rolling on the this digital marketing master-class. 

A betting man would say Adidas' 10-year, £750m kit deal with United has been an influence, but their wider re-branding exercise rolled out last year would have been a focal point.

It would be hard to deny that the re-brand, which aimed to "showcase [Adidas'] creative potential and inspire consumers more than any other sports company", has been anything other than a success to this point.

The use of social media and engaging 'fizzing' content has ensured consumers everywhere have been aware of the Adidas made, Manchester United kit with Pogba on the back for some time.

We await official shirt sales to confirm what we expect; Pogba no.6 will have paid for #Pogback several times over. 


  • Join conversations.
  • Take your audience on a journeywith a story they can engage with.
  • Be un-predictable! 
  • Encourage interaction by making your content fizz and easily shareable. 
  • Lastly, use your audience! They are your biggest marketing tool.





About the author
Alex Thomson

When he's not managing beautiful websites, handling impactful e-shots, analysing Health Checks, completing SEO campaigns, writing killer blogs or smashing social media campaigns, Alex can be found skinning defenders for his Saturday team, enjoying a craft beer, or buried in an Oxford record store.

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