The World Cup kicks off in Russia today. And while the likes of Brazil and Germany are expected to hand out lessons on the pitch, Adidas will dish out lessons in digital marketing strategy on and off the pitch.

The German sportswear and equipment giants supply the World Cup ball – the Telstar 18 – and it comes with a technology I’ve been talking up like Clive Tyldesley talks up England’s chances of winning the trophy on ITV. (Good luck with that, by the way.)

You see, there’s an NFC chip in the fabric of the ball that opens an engaging user experience for anyone with a phone equipped to read it, bridging the online and offline worlds beautifully. It’s an aspect of digital marketing strategy that is ripe for exploitation once that bridge is built.

I’ve been interested in NFC marketing tech for a while and presented a short summary about it to our full company conference last year. It’s a relatively new innovation that, once fully adopted, will smoothly link-up online and offline for advertisers and digital marketers.

Interactive advertising

NFC stands for Near Field Communication. It enables two different devices to talk to one another without any direct contact. You probably have NFC technology in your mobile device – it’s what enables Apple Pay and Samsung Wallet. NFC is also embedded into bus shelters and enables interactive advertising.

There have been some early adopter brands such as Pizza Hut, which has tried out NFC marketing with a stick-on tattoo. That clever little stunt allowed people to order pizza straight to their door simply by swiping a phone against their arm.

While this adoption of NFC hasn’t gone mainstream yet, there is a multitude of uses for it, including the way Adidas is using it to get through its digital marketing messages.

Now, you might think Adidas would be setting up the chip to broadcast information about how hard the ball is kicked or what speed it’s travelling. But it’s a passive technology, which does no monitoring.

Prolong engagement

Instead, it opens up interactive opportunities the moment fans hold their smartphone over the chip when they pick up or buy the ball in stores.

When the chip is read, it sets up the Tango 18 app on the user’s phone. There, users will find product information, content from Adidas football, competitions and challenges. The content will be regularly updated to prolong engagement.

You only get the app if you tap the phone – it’s not available elsewhere – and each NFC chip is good for multiple taps, so your friends can get it using your ball, for instance.

This is a real life example of how close we’re getting to true integration between offline and online and the incentives that brands can give consumers to merge the two worlds. It’s an exciting digital marketing strategy using technology which, while it’s been around a while, has not been applied to its full extent in our day-to-day lives.

NFC marketing applications

As mobile payment becomes more and more trusted by consumers and adopted by brands, we’ll start to see even better NFC marketing applications.

In the meantime, if any innovative brands are reading this and want to chat about how we can connect the dots between their real life customers and the digital world, give me a call …

We know how to use the latest technological innovations to a brand's advantage. Contact us now for more details on 0800 612 9890.