Adidas' Employment Branding Philosophy- should I care?

After an absolutely exhilarating day participating in the Annual Member Congress of the International Association of Employment Websites, I was prepared to sense some level of deflation as I entered day two of my trip, and day one of the expo. After all, I work for a group of employment websites , and this was a conference primarily geared toward full time corporate and 3rd party recruiters. These were the people paid to find the talent that’s theoretically not looking for work on websites.

As I entered the presentation hall, it was apparent this was a big deal. Hundreds of attendees packed the hall, and the stage, video, and sound system were absolutely top flight. The opening welcome remarks were given by Kevin Wheeler (another sign this was a big deal), the President and Founder of Global Learning Resources, who’s client list includes PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Eli Lilly, and Sun Microsystems. Wheeler gave a nice, and nicely brief, welcome, and ushered in what may have been the best presentation of the three day event.

The keynote presentation, entitled “Impossible Is Nothing” Recruiting, was given by Steve Fogarty, Recruiting Captain for adidas North America, along with Steve Bonomo, Head of Global Recruiting, adidas Group. Two men who clearly eat, sleep, and live adidas branding and recruiting.

Initially, I had little hope for this presentation- what can our site learn from these guys, and what can I bring back that will translate to smaller businesses. In fact, one of their admissions was that their greatest recruitment edge was the athletes who endorse their products. What they realized was that people identified with the brand of adidas through the athletes, and therefore, their ability to bring in people who were passionate about working with them was also linked to these athletes.

Great. First notes on my note pad, “key to successful employment branding = sign sponsorship deals with international stars…simple :) ” . -That’s exactly what I have written on my yellow legal pad.

As they went on however, the two Steve’s did a masterful job of connecting their research to the development of their employment brand, then illustrating how they reinforce an leverage that brand to attract top talent. The following bullets highlight some of the great thoughts they shared:

* At the executive level, their company understands that employee productivity is directly related to employee engagement
* Talent Acquisition department is modeled after sales/marketing department, even using the words candidate and customer interchangeably -
o Employment Branding = Marketing; Sourcing Candidates = Sales
* There are only 2 fundamental principles in Branding that a company can affect- Choice and Expectation
* There are three driving forces to affect Brand: Focus, Alignment, and Linkage
* Utilizing an activity called Differentiation in Degree v. Differentiation in Kind, they were able to identify what really makes their work environment unique (this is where they realized that the athletes were key)
* One tool to remaining focused on their brand was to the creation of a Brand book, with illustration of how the employment brand related to all areas of the talent acquisition process.
* Talent Acquisition Process: Perception, Initial Contact, Screening, Interviewing, On-Boarding
* Best in class methodology includes building a recruitment web space that is monitored and analyzed just like an eRetail site
o Where do they go when they enter?
o What are they looking for?
o What leads to the application/sale?
o Where do they leave from?

All in all, this was an amazing presentation that showed the audience the power of a fully realized and supported employment brand. As someone who consults with employers on employment branding, I found myself feeling please both because much of what they said reinforced the work we do, and also because I learned so much more about the process.

As you’d expect, there was no sense of deflation after this start of the day, and it just got better after that.

For more post about the expo and IAEWS conference, or other topics regarding recruiting, read more at

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