How adidas’ 2021 Campaign Won Chinese New Year

Key Takeaways:

  • Nailing the cultural tone in a Chinese New Year campaign is a pain point for fashion brands because the line between appropriation and appreciation is thin.

  • Adidas’ creative television commercial, behind-the-scenes features, and strong celebrity cast extended the value chain of its endorsements and helped boost social awareness.

  • From online-to-offline, adidas leveraged gamification tactics to improve digital engagement and strengthen the brand’s stickiness with local shoppers, especially sports and street culture fans.

With February approaching, Chinese New Year 2021 — the Year of Ox — is right around the corner. It’s not only China’s most significant holiday for family reunions, but it’s also the country’s top day for giving gifts and good wishes. As such, it has become an essential occasion for luxury brands.

Along with its other attractive buying behaviors and preferences, China’s demographics have also been the most resilient after COVID-19, making the Mainland an increasingly crucial battleground for fashion players. Therefore, Chinese New Year marketing has kicked off earlier each year, and 2021 is more heated than ever.

However, nailing the cultural tone in Chinese New Year campaigns has been a consistent pain point for fashion brands because the line between appropriation and appreciation is often thin and hard to navigate. But adidas’ CNY 2021 campaign theme, Make Auspicious CNY Wishes Come True, got it just right. The brand uses traditional cultural motifs commonly seen in Chinatowns worldwide, but with a highly nuanced and localized perspective.

To better understand what makes up a compelling, localized campaign, Jing Daily analyzed the creative storytelling, product development, and omnichannel communication strategies behind adidas’ CNY 2021 release to help you avoid any cultural missteps for Chinese New Year.

Telling a Year of the Ox story with a contemporary twist

Coming up with an intriguing, engaging, and impressive narrative is the starting pointing for any brand campaign. But for Chinese New Year, campaign stories are often homogenous and disconnected from China’s contemporary social and cultural contexts.

This year, adidas drew inspiration from the traditional Chinese New Year custom of giving auspicious wishes. But the brand dealt with it engagingly by encouraging audiences to honor their blessings and make wishes come true through their actions, a concept that many Chinese had taken for granted.

Many young people go back to their hometowns during this holiday, and the campaign video smartly features scenes that come alive with the atmosphere of small-town CNY celebrations. The campaign embraces today’s fresh, modern China — a stark contrast to adidas’ 2020 CNY campaign set in the ancient Tang Dynasty.

Screenshots of the television commercial

The 90-second television commercial features typical scenarios commonly seen in CNY-themed films, such as the lion dance, magic tricks, and Kungfu. Here, a strong celebrity cast of all ages — featuring Jackson Yee, Eason Chan, Liu Yi Fei, Zhang Jun Ning, and the child actress Wang Sheng Di — allows the campaign to reach broader demographics.

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Aside from the short film, behind-the-scenes features were also released on social platforms like Douyin, creating dynamic conversations amongst audiences. Users have shown a lot of interest in how their idols engaged with the film’s special effects. Also, celebrity greeting videos featuring special-edition products gave the campaign a personal touch. Both tactics extended the value chain of adidas’ celebrity endorsements and helped boost the campaign’s social awareness.

Leveraging omnichannel gamification to connect to local shoppers

These hints of indigenous culture are not just focal points in adidas’ campaign, though. They also appear as design accents, most notably on the special-edition kicks in adidas’ Chinese New Year 2021 collection.

Traditional emblems like fish, oxen, pixiu (mythical hybrid creatures), and qilin (the equivalent unicorns) grace shoes from the Sports Performance, Kids, and adidas Originals collections. Select Originals editions even include a stitched inner pocket under the tongue, representing good fortune.

Featured special-edition products highlight traditional emblems with auspicious implications.

Alongside the campaign, adidas has also rolled out physical and virtual coins to enrich the product launches and elevate audience engagement. Consumers who buy CNY products in both online and offline stores will have the opportunity to get this lucky coin. Additionally, users who download the adidas APP and scan the coin can enter the in-APPs interactive game to collect individual wishes from celebrities and win prizes. And those who share their wishes can collect extra draws.

Screenshots of the mobile game on adidas’ mobile app.

Notably, the complimentary gifts include offline workshops with featured celebrities, which are deemed invaluable interactive experiences that go beyond tangible products. These omnichannel gamification strategies not only improve digital engagement; they also improve brand stickiness with local shoppers, especially sports and street culture fans.

From product development to campaign visualization, adidas’ local marketing team made the brand’s CNY 2021 campaign highly relevant to Chinese audiences with its online-to-offline strategies. And the sports powerhouse has gradually established its own unique visual language in terms of CNY celebration campaigns.

From last year’s palace-themed plot to this year’s current-day, small-town storylines, adidas’ CNY settings have actively engaged consumers. More importantly, adidas has rejuvenated its brand image by embracing the culture and capturing the rebellious spirit of China’s younger generations.

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