How beating bots to sneaker drops led to Adidas’ bigger D2C play

President Alim Dhanji thinks the Confirmed app can build fandom with content marketing.

By Will Novosedlik

If you are a sneakerhead, you know how fast you need to move when you catch wind of the next sneaker drop.

You also know that no matter how fast you move, the bots are probably going to beat you to it.

Bots are bad for any business, but they have been the bane of many a sneakerhead, buying up limited-edition releases and re-selling them at an inflated price. According to cybersecurity firm Akami, traffic on the most hyped releases is beginning to close in on 100%.

This also provides a problem for the brands enthusiasts buy from. Bots can erode brand trust, disrupt the relationship they have with brand evangelists, and jam a site with traffic that can cause a loss of sales.

Adidas has decided to do something about that with the launch of the Confirmed app in Canada, which Alim Dhanji, president of Adidas Canada, says allows the brand to make the unavailable accessible to more consumers.

“With Confirmed, we’re able to provide a safe and accessible place for the sneakerhead community to gain access to some of these exclusive products without having to worry about bots buying up the new drops,” he says.

Canada is the latest country to have access to the newest version of the app, which was first introduced in the U.S. in 2015 (with a Canadian launch in 2017) before being discontinued and incorporated into the “main” Adidas app. But that bot activity has gotten more sophisticated since then, leading to the relaunch of the app south of the border last summer.

But the app is now also a bigger part of Adidas’ marketing channels, engaging its captive audience with content including listicles, interviews and never-before-seen video, as well as behind-the- scenes stories about collaborations with the likes of YEEZY, Sean Wotherspoon, Pharrell Williams and Craig Green.

In its first four weeks, downloads have increased at an exponential rate, sitting at 14,000 as of last week.

To get sneakerheads across Canada excited about the launch, Adidas hosted a Golden Ticket draw. Using the app, the winner was given the chance to buy any upcoming drops before anyone else for the duration of one month. Adidas Canada will continue to raffle off Golden Tickets on a regular basis.

That builds on an integrated campaign that started with targeted emails to Creators Club (Adidas’ loyalty club) members. Newsletters shared stories that were pushed through social channels. Local partners and athlete influencers connected with prominent sneakerheads across Canada. The brand hosted an event where media influencers and Creators Club members got a surprise visit from Toronto Raptor Gary Trent Jr.

One fun aspect of the launch was a partnership with local premium ice cream purveyor Ruru Baked. Why ice cream? Dhanji explains: “Anyone who knows me knows I am an ice cream addict. But that’s not why we did it. I asked my team to find an innovative local business to partner with. Ruru does a small batch production for each new flavour, so when the batch is sold out, that’s it. There’s no more. So it’s kind of like our limited edition sneakers.” An exclusive “CONFIRMED” flavoured ice cream was sold from October 27 – 31. Adidas coordinated a store takeover at Ruru Baked with high brand visibility inside as well as on the storefront windows. Each pint of the custom flavoured ice cream included a QR code so customers could download the app and test it out.