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It's not about the gear

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Last spring the football genius Zlatan Ibrahimovic and fashion giant Varner were launching their new brand; A-Z Sportswear. A sportswear brand for all training and all kinds of sport. Their message is that it’s not about the gear, it’s about you, and how much you are willing to put in to get from a to z.  

The sports apparel category is represented by global power brands such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armor. All of them have several superstars on their team, countless sponsorships, extremely high awareness, distribution in all channels and massive marketing budgets.  

A-Z Sportswear had only one superstar, no sponsorships, 0 % awareness, no physical distribution and a tiny marketing budget compared to its competitors. Agency Starcom had to think smarter regarding the target group and maximise the value of having Zlatan on the team.  

The core target group was young men across Europe, since they represent a big share of people doing sports and training. From a targeting perspective, they are digital natives, heavy users of streaming services, mobile first and constant users of social media.  

There is no secret that big sport events, especially in football, are something young men have high on their priority list. In digital era, social media has become an important part of the actual sport experience. Insights from Facebook shows that the social chatter related to a football match peaks when something big and decisive happens. It’s in those moments people log on to share their joy or frustration.   


Launching a new brand demands a high reach and awareness in the core target group. You need to find your target group cluttered and preferably in one place. With over 26 million followers, Zlatan’s Facebook Page is such a place. The majority of the followers are young men across Europe - the core target group. There was therefore nothing more natural than to go Facebook only with the launch.   

The first milestone in the campaign was that Zlatan himself was going to unveil the new brand on June 7 at a press conference in Paris. Three days later the European Cup kicked off, a tournament it would take full ownership of on Facebook. Parallelly, the agency would distribute the brand movie that told the brand story “It’s about” through training moments, featuring young athletes and of course the man himself.  

Starcom divided its strategy into three phases: teaser phase, launch and “It’s about”: 

- The teaser phase was about building great anticipation towards the launch and recruit ambassadors. It would do this by using an “inside and out” method, meaning that it first would build interest within Zlatan’s social followers, then through A-Z’s fan base and finally towards a wider audience.  

- The launch phase was about getting as many eyes on the press conference as possible. By gaining earned and organic media, the reach would be both wide and cost efficient.  

- Connect the “It’s about” vision with actual happenings in the European Cup, by creating a content plan that could build further reach and momentum through paid social media.  

When the buzz about the launch was peaking, it would post the brand movie. 

The main guideline was this: From day one it would capitalise on the engagement created from the events and video content, in form of audience segments, followers and traffic.  


In the weeks before the launch, the agency built interest within Zlatan’s followers by telling them that something big was about to happen. It built anticipation upon the last minutes before the press conference through Facebook Live messages from Zlatan personally. 

It finally unveiled A-Z by broadcasting the press conference through Facebook Live only. The broadcast production was well preparedeverything from lighting, sound and streaming were top quality. After a mannequin show and display of the clothing, Zlatan entered the stage to talk about the new brand. People who followed on Facebook could ask him questions which he answered live.  

At this moment Starcom started to distribute the brand movie on Facebook through standard video posts, optimised for brand awareness. A bidding tactic that gave the best possible reach, since Facebook then will try to reach as many unique users as possible. It targeted specifically Zlatan’s and A-Z’s followers and those who had been watching the Live broadcast.  

A few days after the press conference, the European Cup kicked off. During the competition, the agency targeted people who had watched the press conference or brand movie, that also was interested in football, training or sports in general. It took full ownership of the tournament through Facebook, in real time - based on big moments in the games. It saluted the underdogs, honoured the great performances and mocked the players with bad excuses through its “It’s about” vision combined with football lingo and humour.   


The campaign exceeded its goals regarding brand awareness. A brand lift study from AC Nielsen and Facebook showed that it achieved:  

- A 23 point significant lift in ad recall, which is a huge result compared to the 11 point benchmark for retail brands on Facebook world wide.  

- A 14 point significant lift in brand awareness, which is strong compared to the retail benchmark of 5 points.  

Even before the launch, A-Z Sportswear on Facebook was followed by 33,000 people and more than 117,000 people visited As many as 30,000 of them signed up to receive more information and newsletter services.  

45,000 people sat ready the moment the press conference went live on Facebook. During the 30 minutes it was live, more than 4,2 million people had tuned in. Today, more than 18 million people have seen the launch event – organically!  

The brand movie reached over 4.1 million people and generated three million started video views. The average view through rate was 76%, impressive for two minute long video.  

The launch in total reached over 300 million people across PR and social media.

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