The Fame Game: Adidas teams up with Arsenal, and who says M&Ms aren’t sexy anymore?

Special PR’s Head of PR & Influence, Kelly Grindle, selects five of the most attention-grabbing campaigns that made a big difference for their respective brands.

Have a submissions for February’s column? Email [email protected]

Adidas puts us all to shame

While most of us were still sunning ourselves on beaches, Adidas kicked off 2022 with a campaign that might be amongst the best we see this year.

They teamed up with Arsenal – one of the UK’s most popular football teams – to shine a spotlight on the skyrocketing spate of knife crime terrorising London.

The “No More Red” campaign saw Arsenal players ditch their iconic red shirts for an all-white kit during their match against Nottingham Forest: broadcast to an audience of millions.

In terms of an awareness driving stunt, it is quite unparalleled. 

But what sets Adidas apart is the subsequent demonstrations to prove they were fighting for more than headlines.

Rather than sell the limited-edition kit they donated it to local charities working to address the causes of knife crime; they provided safe spaces for young people to play football including a pitch near Arsenal’s home-field; and they created a mentorship programme where local youth will be supported by role models including Idris Elba and Reuben Dangoor.

This is the type of PR I love: at first look, it’s a subversive take on an iconic football shirt, but when you dig a little deeper, it’s unveiling a sincere and authentic corporate responsibility programme to fix a social injustice.

Thank god they didn’t partner with Chelsea, that’s all I’ll say.

Smirnoff dominates social

Since 1981, Smirnoff has been mixing drinks with a whole bunch of ingredients. 

So, to keep the brand top of mind in 2021, Smirnoff started mixing drinks with a new type of ingredient:  social ingredients.

They created a different drink every day, made with what happened that day.

When Squid Game hit the top spot on Netflix, it was immortalised in cocktail format.

When Britney was finally freed, a fruity hot-pink concoction was released.

When the government put us into the traffic light system, a new take on the Traffic Light was devised.

From albums like Adele’s 30 to box-office hits like Spiderman to the weather patterns impacting New Zealand; it was all fair game to create social recipes, made from social media.

While this campaign is undoubtedly a clever use of social media, the sheer audacity of the campaign is what deserves credit.

100 recipes, for 100 consecutive days, produced in real-time and then outputted in various formats for social media and out of home.

I don’t know about you, but it would be enough to earn a Smirnoff or two at the end of the working day.

Tucker Carlson doesn’t think M&Ms are sexy anymore

Is this a PR hit? Or is this a PR flop? I honestly don’t know what to think about it, but I am pleased to see that it riled up Fox News super villain Tucker Carlson enough to the point he effectively declared he doesn’t want to f*ck a piece of candy anymore.

Let me explain…

The coloured characters that have been omnipresent in M&M’s marketing for years have been given a makeover as part of an inclusivity push from parent company Mars Incorporated.

The ‘sultry’ green M&M has dropped its signature pair of knee-high boots for a more comfortable pair of flats, and the ‘sexy’ brown M&M has switched its pair of high heels for more practical pumps.

In a statement accompanying the new designs, M&M’s declared it was to give the characters “more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community”.

I’m very supportive of a greater drive for inclusivity and diversity, but you have to wonder whether a fictional M&M character wearing high heels is the most pressing symbol of the feminist movement.

I was therefore tempted to relegate this to the “flop” basket; until Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson went on a rampage against woke liberals and it made the stunt worthwhile.

I’d encourage you to watch the above video, but in his bizarre rant, Carlson declared that M&Ms won’t be happy “until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous. Until the moment you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity”.

I mean, Tucker, I’m a big fan of M&Ms; but they’ve never turned me on.

There’s no “I” in Wellington

It’s easier to overcomplicate than simplify.

So you have to hand it to Wellington for a straightforward idea that is undoubtedly going to work.

They’ve created a new sculptural sign on the waterfront that spells out WELL_NGTON, missing the letter “I”.

One person at a time can stand on a platform to replicate the letter, and the council is hoping tourists will be more than willing to share the Instagram-able moment through their personal social networks.

Besides its sheer experiential simplicity, the clever execution allows the installation to be repainted, redesigned and relocated to reflect the diversity of attractions in Wellington: from cuisine festivals to concerts.

If New Zealanders are willing to pose next to giant carrots, fizzy drinks and trouts at other tourism hotspots across the country; perhaps this more sophisticated offering of “I am in Wellington” is going to hit the spot.

BrewDog’s latest offering is anything but sad

I lived in London for close to a decade, and it’s hard to explain the weight of darkness and depression that can descend on that city at this time of year. It causes many to experience ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD).

Do you know what doesn’t help this disorder? Alcohol.

But it does provide an incredible opportunity for a brewer to promote their alcohol-free beer, and that’s exactly what craft-brewing PR-masters BrewDog tackled with the launch of their ‘SAD AF’ beverage.

They partnered with mental health movement #IAMWHOLE to encourage alcohol-free social connections and raise vital funds for male mental-health research.

It’s underpinned by PR and social content featuring Rizzle Kick’s Jordan Stephens and once again speaks to the purpose and social issues that are dominating brands PR and marketing efforts.

This brew has all the right ingredients: limited-edition product, charitable alignment, cultural resonance, and the right touch of celebrity.

If I wasn’t busy churning through those Smirnoff recipes, I might just have dabbled in an alcohol-free beverage myself.

For more from Kelly and The Fame Game, click here.

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Kelly Grindle is Head of PR & Influence at Special PR.

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