• Andrea Fielding

Empowering employees to deliver the employer brand promise

The following adidas Group case study is one of 26 best practice case studies from the latest book from Brett Minchington, "Employer Brand Excellence - A Case Study Approach" click here>

Company overview

Headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, Adidas group employees more than 53,000 people in over 160 countries and produce more than 660 million product units every year that generate sales of € 14.5 billion (2014). These numbers alone can easily suggest that the Group is quite a complex organisation. True. But they keep things simple, lean and fast.

No other brand has a more distinguished history and stronger connection with sport than adidas. It is their mission to be the best sports brand in the world. Everything they do is rooted in sport. This is what 'The Badge of Sport' stands for as a brand mark. It is the sharp end of their spear, seen on innovative products, as well as with the world's best athletes, teams and events.

The adidas Group brands are renowned for their innovation and heritage and include household names such as adidas, Reebok, TaylorMade, Adams Golf, Ashworth, CCM and Five Ten.

The role employee's play in driving shareholder value is included as one of adidas Group's five guiding principles.

Number 4 states:

“We are a global organisation that is socially and environmentally responsible, that embraces creativity and diversity and is financially rewarding for our employees and shareholders.”

Aligning the employer brand with corporate strategy

Employees are inspired by the company's powerful purpose:

“Through Sport, we have the power to change lives.”

To attract, engage and retain people who are empowered to deliver this purpose it was important to ensure the employer brand aligned with the corporate strategy.

The leadership team conducted extensive external research and found the next generation of workers are seeking more than just a paycheck: They long for purpose, meaning and the chance to have an impact on tomorrow. They also have a love for the unknown and an obsession with clarity and simplicity.

Their research also found they are seeking to work for companies that are:

  • Flat with a bottom's up approach,

  • ‘Real' and not afraid to show their weaknesses

  • Transparent, collaborative and open source

Adidas group's employer brand aligns with the strategic pillars driving the corporate strategy:

"Creativity, confidence and collaboration.”

It also aligns with their people strategy pillars:

  • Create meaningful reasons to join and to stay

  • Role models who inspire us

  • Bringing forth fresh and diverse perspective

  • Providing a creative climate to make a difference.

How the creativity pillar is bought to life through the employer brand strategy can best be defined as:

“Creators can be found in every industry, in every type of job, in every country around the world. Creators find inspiration in unlikely places, look at the world in their own unique way, and have an uncanny ability to connect dots that others just don't see. At the adidas Group we are obsessed with building a culture, environment and team that unleashes creative potential and gives all of us a chance to make a real impact.

Together, we will build a better tomorrow.”

Leadership guru Peter Drucker's mantra, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” is well alive amongst the leadership at adidas Group. Leadership define the

behaviours that drive culture from the traits that adidas Group seek in their people.

Employer brand promise

The employer brand promise at adidas Group strongly aligns with the company's purpose:

“Through sport, we have the power to change lives.’ (see figure 1)

On their career website they use this to call out to future employees:

“Join us. Feel your heart beat like it did when you stepped onto the field, the court, or the track for the first time, and help us to Shape the Future of Sport.”

Figure 1: adidas Group's employer brand promise visual

The adidas group employer brand story

The adidas group employer brand story is the frame that sets the tone for all employer brand and EVP copy and storytelling. The stories themselves are derived from the employer brand values and they use real examples to communicate them from within the organization.

“It's the North Star that guides everything we create, make, do.”

The employer brand experience guide which details the employer brand strategy states:

“If we wake up tomorrow and find the world better than we left it the day before, you can be sure sport played a part. Sport fights depression and increases self-confidence. It gets people off the couch and into the gym. It lowers the risk of heart attack and diabetes, breast cancer and stroke. It teaches kids to rise above adversity, puts them through college and lengthens their lives. Sport is every tomorrow that ever made up its mind to be better than the day it left behind. Be part of that tomorrow (see figure 2).”

Figure 2: adidas Group's employer brand story

Employer brand values

This employer brand story is delivered through six employer brand values (the adidas group EVP) which are the beliefs and qualities adidas Group want employees to see, feel and experience (see figure 3). These include:

1. Through sport, we have the power to change lives

Sport matters. It gets people off the couch and into the gym. It fights disease, deepens friendships and improves lives.

It strengthens muscles, increases self- confidence and teaches lessons that last a lifetime. At the adidas Group, we shape the future of sport because sport has the power to change lives.

2. The future runs on diverse and fresh perspectives

Adi Dassler looked at factory workers and saw athletes. He picked up army surplus canvas and saw track spikes. It's the people who see the world a little differently than the rest who create the breakthroughs that inspire us all. The more diverse perspectives and life experiences we support and encourage, the more often those breakthroughs will happen. At adidas Group, we seek people with different perspectives and life experiences and allow them to bring their true self to work every day. This isn't just a nicety. It's a business necessity.

3. Careers without borders

Exposing your talents to as many different cultures, languages, life experiences and points of view as possible is the fastest way to grow.

4. Pioneering the future of work

Imagination, teamwork and the courage to share your ideas all need the right environment to thrive. Which is why we're focused on being at the epicenter of global culture and pioneering a future workplace that facilitates faster decision-making, creative solutions and more opportunities for spontaneous collaboration

5. Sport needs a place

Sport needs a healthier, stronger, more sustainable and more socially responsible world. Changing the way an industry does business isn't quick or easy. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Which is why we've made this a core priority for the entire adidas Group.

6. Collaborating with those who inspire us

We invite anyone and everyone whose curiosity and creativity inspires us to be part of our brands. We open our doors to collaborators from all walks of life, open our ears to their points of view, and are generous with our own insights and experience, so that we can all co- create the future together.

Figure 3: adidas Group employer brand values

EVP communications

adidas Group's focal point for EVP communications is to leverage the power of storytelling across channels, bringing to life their unique culture focused on unleashing potential in their people.

The career site is one core platform for this story telling with 6-8 million visitors a year and provides a wealth of information for different target groups along with extensive information on the brands within the group (figure 4).

Beyond hosting all of adidas Group's jobs globally, the site also provides a platform to communicate the EVP

Figure 4: adidas Group career website


Bringing the EVP to life through digital communications and social interactions

Being a global company, adidas Group places emphasis on digital to communicate its EVP to its target audiences.

The Group also uses a digital strategy to segment their messages to different target groups. To attract talent to work at their headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, adidas Group have developed a dedicated website at www.herzo.adidas-group.com

The site provides detailed insights about the city, the working environment, living in Herzogenaurach and the benefits for family (see figure 5). The localised site is appealing and insightful and addresses any concerns future talent may have about relocating (and their family) to work at the company's headquarters.

Figure 5: Segmentation of key target groups at adidas Group


Localising the employer brand

adidas Group leadership empower their teams around the world to decide which employee experience moments matter most to their market or location and how and when they want to communicate this. The regional teams are supported with employer brand communication assets to support their local campaigns.

They believe every employee has an opportunity to play a part in communicating what makes working for adidas Group great and different to any other company in a way that rings true in each country or location.

A dedicated website at www.moscow.adidas-group.com is also used to attract talent to work in their Russian offices and is effective in changing the perceptions potential candidates (or existing employees) may have about Russia if they had not visited the country previously. The videos of current ex-pats who are working in Russia are quite powerful in promoting the benefits for employees and their families in working and living in Russia (see figure 6).

Figure 6: Localisation of the EVP at adidas Group in Russia


Digital assets

The Group uses digital assets to support the communication of its EVP in the major social media networks; LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube (see figures 7-11).

A staff blog is also a key part of the Group's EVP communications with their talent community (see figure 12).

Various strategies to communicate the EVP and engage candidates and future employees are used across the digital ecosystem. Twitter is used to communicate global jobs as well as employer brand content. There are also links on the page to videos which showcase the EVP.

The site is of clean, concise and functional design and the place to visit to view current vacancies. The other social networks e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, blog, etc. are used to tell the 'adidas Group story' and to showcase the company's employer brand values.

The objective of the company's staff blog is to provide future talent with a personal and holistic picture of the people behind the brands. More than one hundred staff contribute content to the blog which provides readers with diverse and authentic insights into what it's like to work at adidas Group.

Figure 7: adidas Group LinkedIn account


Figure 8: adidas Group Facebook page


Fans: 28,000+

Figure 9: adidas Group Twitter account


Followers: 25,000+

Figure 10: adidas Group Instagram account


Followers: 1050+

Figure 11: adidas Group YouTube page www.youtube.com/user/adidasGroupCareers

346,000+ views and 957 subscribers

Figure 12 adidas Group blog


Calling all creators video contest

In 2015 adidas Group launched the 'Calling all creators video contest.' It was a contest asking each market to create an inspiring employer brand video highlighting the benefits (EVP) and beauty of adidas Group in their market/location (see figure 13).

The aims of the contest were to:

  • Create videos to showcase in the 'Locations' section of the employee career site and to use as a talent acquisition, retention and onboarding tool.

  • A practical way to keep the (EVP) alive in the local location.

  • Showcase engagement and pride on a local level.

  • Allow staff to brag a bit about how great their market/location is!

They key question the video should answer is:

'What makes talent want to join and stay in your location?'

Prizes were provided to the winning regions. The most inspiring video makers won a professional employer branding focused photo-shoot of their market including post production and all rights to the digital photos or 7.500 euro towards the design of an employer branded campaign specifically for their market in 2016 such as a localized employee referral program or university campaign.

Figure 13: Calling all creators video contest

What we achieved

1. Social media channel growth 2013 – 2016

2. Eight new videos – see Working at adidas Group Playlist

see playlist click here>

3. Employee Engagement

  • In 2013 adidas group launched a global employee engagement survey and achieved more than 40,000 participants. The results of this survey have been a driving force behind organisational changes. The company set up a ‘Results to

  • Action,’ team to work on fifteen key focus areas based on the feedback.

  • Another key insight was that employee satisfaction and engagement is not only a task for HR but a task for everybody. As the

  • CEO Herbert Hainer says,

“Every leader in the company has to participate and lead in

creating the right environment.”

The initiatives focus has led to significant positive change and improvement as the decisions leaders are making are rooted in this feedback. They are the proof that listening and acting on feedback makes a real difference. Results will be measured concretely in the next employee engagement survey.

The business impact

adidas Group believes that culture is the most powerful help or hindrance for their strategy. Their aligned HR people, corporate communications, employer brand and brand strategy all focus heavily on adidas Group values and beliefs that will create the right culture from the inside out.

The employer brand analytics will guide the further development of the internal process, experience and effectiveness and give insights for future evolution.

The Employer Brand and Talent Acquisition strategy is key to this approach but they also have a motto to remind themselves of this,

‘What doesn't get measured, doesn't get done!’

Having an accurate, unambiguous and sustained approach to measuring performance and predicting future trends has become a competitive necessity. Analytics are the most effective way to influence managers and executives and to show business impact.

In an increasingly competitive landscape and an economic landscape that demands employees do more with less, analytics play a critical role in their ability to improve performance and optimise strategy and programs.

To name just a few, leaders are measuring social media traffic, posts, employee, candidate and hiring manager satisfaction, engagement and sentiment. Additionally they are measuring and reviewing analytics quarterly with their regional market teams to drive changes and improvements in process, mindset and culture.

Key learnings

The following key learnings defined by Brett Minchington, chairman/CEO Employer Brand International about adidas Group's approach towards employer branding include:

1. Clearly defined strategy

A clearly defined strategy is the key to success! Be clear on what the objectives of your employer brand strategy is from the beginning and everything should build from that. At adidas Group, they seek talent that want to help them to ‘Shape the future of sport.’ The six pillars of their employer brand values is brought to life through a digital strategy to support the delivery of this objective.

2. Develop your distinctive assets and build prevalence

Distinctive brand assets are non- brand name elements that are uniquely linked to the brand in the memory of the vast majority of candidates. Many creative elements (such as colours, logos, slogans and characters) have the potential to become distinctive assets. However, merely using one of these elements does not necessarily mean it is an 'asset' for your brand.

To develop a distinctive asset, candidates must learn its association with the brand; it is not innate knowledge. Therefore, to turn your potential employer branding elements into distinctive assets, you need to make a long- term commitment to consistently co-present the distinctive elements and the brand name across all candidate touch-points such as adidas Group is executing across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, blog and niche websites.

3. Localize your global strategy

You need to work closely with local markets when implementing a global employer brand strategy. This may also involve full or part funding of your employer branding initiatives.

Allow for local adaptation as part of your global employer brand strategy. Clarify what elements of the strategy will be led by the global team (e.g. e-recruitment system, induction program standards and global jobs and careers website) and which activities (e.g. recruitment marketing material, media, and staffing) will be driven at the local level.

4. Engage leadership

An engaged leadership team is key to successfully implementing an employer brand strategy across the organisation. Identify key stakeholders from the beginning and bring together a team of internal and external specialists who you will involve during the various stages of your strategy. At adidas Group the Executive are informed and engaged in the employer brand strategy and support it with the appropriate resources.

5. Empower staff

The success of adidas Group's strategy is driven by empowering staff at a local level to bring the EVP to life through their daily work in the regions. The Group believes there are creators in every country around the world. Creators find inspiration in unlikely places, they look at the world in their own unique way, and they have an uncanny ability to connect the dots that others just don't see. At the adidas Group they are obsessed with building a culture, environment and team that unleashes creative potential and gives all staff a chance to make a real impact.

6. Be unique

It is not possible to create uniqueness using rational arguments only. Uniqueness is achieved through speaking to the emotional needs of stakeholders and connecting them to the employer brand. Magic is stronger than logic. Be distinctive in your employer brand and EVP messaging.

7. Train leaders

Train and develop leaders in developing and managing the employer branding strategic function! More than 100 employees are involved in contributing to adidas Group's blog providing rich insights and opportunities for potential candidates to get a real inside view of what it's like to work for the company.

Also train employees in using the latest in technology devices (e.g. tablets, smartphones, virtual reality and social media.

Companies need to prepare for the next wave of talent entering the workplace that will be more technologically and socially savvy, and seeking to work for a company with a strong purpose, one that offers meaningful work and an experience more aligned with a blended lifestyle.

8. Lead from the front

Ensure leaders responsible for the employer brand strategy are visible. The Group's leaders regularly present at global conferences where they not only act as ambassadors for the brand; they also build their networks with leaders from other companies in the local region.

Case study contributor

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