adidas F50 adizero prime - Netnography study

During my Social Media Marketing class at the Schulich School of Business, York University, I came across the concept of Netnography. It is essentially Ethnography + Internet. Inspired by my professor's work in the area (Robert Kozinets, he coined the term...), I attempted to make sense of conversations around the launch of F50 adidas adizero prime.  

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adidas F50 adizero prime - Netnography study

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The product:

The adizero prime makes for an interesting product due to the following reasons:

  1. It's the lightest soccer cleats ever made weighing only 145 grams (5.2 oz)
  2. adizero prime (Jan 2011 launch) built on the original adizero launched in May 2010 (165 grams / 5.8 oz). It's important to know that these were the lightest cleats till Puma V1.10 SL knocked the crown off adidas by producing cleats that weighed 150 grams (5.3 oz). adidas had to get it back. 
  3. The product put adidas back in the elite category alongside Nike's Superfly II ($400 price weighing 210 grams, 7.4 oz )

Purpose:

To study reactions of consumers knowing the fact that the original adizeros were available for half the price.

Methodology:

Rather than counting the number of positive / negative comments on communities, I thought that a qualitative based approach would be more fruitful as it would help me understand the aspects of the product that were important to consumers. I ended up

analyzing

around 140 comments on two online communities; Soccer Bible and Footy Boots.

Customer Segments:

Based on the review of comments on the product review page, there were two main segments:

1.

A striking majority of consumers who did not belong to a professional (or semi professional) team, were more interested in the look of the product and being casual players, found the product expensive

2.

A tiny minority of consumers, who played soccer at a competitive level, gave more importance to talking about the performance first before divulging into “soccer fashion”, probably depended on club to provide kits.

Themes in Conversations:

Some of the common themes that emerged during conversations revolved around sheer amazement at the weight or lack of it, footballers who could be expected to adorn the cleats, colourways launched so far, comparison to Nike and Puma products and most importantly, the price.

Since the original adizeros were launched in 2010 amid great fanfare (Messi+Zidane+Villa ad…), adidas would not have experienced a hard time promoting the product. While the original adizeros came in a synthetic upper (165 grams) and a leather version (175 grams), the adizero prime came only in synthetic uppers to remain light weight.

Based on rumours that circulated on the internet, the primes were wrongly reported as having a shelf price of $399 (equivalent of Nike Superfly II). While both Soccer Bible and Footy Boots dismissed this rumour in their reviews, many of the user comments showed that consumers continued to believe that these were priced at $399 and not $299. As a result, this generated a significant backlash from consumers who felt that they were being ripped off for a 20 gram reduction in weight. While the true impact of this error might not be known, it is imperative to know that in word-of-mouth terms, it would lead to biased reviews and fewer referrals.

While I wasn’t surprised about consumers unhappy about the price, few users fully understood that the adizero primes were not for everyone…a “wow” factor came along with purchase and the cleats were created to make a style statement on the pitch.   

I found it very interesting that a very strong majority of the members never talked about the performance of these cleats as if it was taken for granted that the primes promised superior performance based on the success of the original adizeros. The focus was on the look and feel of the cleats. Since the primes costed exactly double the prevailing price of originals, users also felt that the design/colours should be clearly visible for others to notice. The primes had tri-coloured

studs as opposed to the single coloured studs on the original but it wasn’t enough…

Recommendation#1

Saw the difference?? Blue colour blocking on the TPU that goes around the forefoot…(Yes, there are some examples of exclusive colourways in the original series; chameleon purple and sun yellow among others and same for the primes) and tri-coloured studs.  

That’s the biggest visible difference between the two versions. It would be better for adidas to research more into this and then develop exclusive colourways for the adizero prime to justify the price…or is adidas saving those for a newer product that can match the $399 price for Superfly?

Recommendation#2

While I would love to know adidas’ level of involvement with online communities, it is still important to highlight the importance of maintaining a constant flow of communication with this influential medium. Soccer Bible did show the correct price but it remains unclear if this information was pro-actively communicated by adidas to such communities or these websites put an end to the rumours after learning about it from other sources (product launch, adidas website etc).

Considering the level of detail in the reviews, it is safe to say that these communities served as a respected hub of information for fans. As these sites were dedicated to discussing about soccer gear, people browsing through (and members) were likely to be influenced by views expressed.

Another advantage of partnering with such communities would be to make the communities feel closer to the brand. In addition to allowing sneak peeks at the product, communicating regularly with these websites (to generate positive buzz about the product even before the launch…) would allow for a deeper relationship with fans.       

Questions to consider:

Here’s a bigger question (for adidas and readers): Did adidas make a mistake by pricing the original adizeros at just $199 at launch? Considering the fact that it was the lightest cleats then and launched just before the World Cup ‘10, should adidas have planned for the price comparisons that consumers made between the current retail price of the original adizeros ($150) and the primes ($300)? Would it have been easier for adidas to justify a less than 100% price increase for the primes?

If there was a gap of only 8 months between the two versions, it’s safe to say that the primes were already in the pipeline. Keep this and competitors’ response in mind (Puma V1.10 SL temporarily became the lightest cleats), would adidas have been better off heavily promoting the original adizeros as a product that deserved a $249 tag?