Coloring outside the lines for basketball’s Picasso

Project Harden and All-Star Activations

In 2015, adidas signed James Harden, the NBA’s most polarizing star. They also signed us.

Since then we’ve teamed up again and again to fan the flames of conversation — and controversy — with digital, social, and IRL experiences for a hoops legend in the making.

Adidas made a play to grab more market share and hoops cred by unveiling a signature shoe for Harden.

Our challenge? Bring the heat for 3 solid months leading up to launch.

One small stipulation: We couldn’t show the shoe.

Our way in.

In 2016, we talked to adi’s target audience—teen boys—and discovered a behavior we’d never seen before.

They curated Instagram as a snapshot of their current mood and obsessions, not a chronicle or their lives.

Here’s to the hack.

They put up a handful of images for a few days, then hit delete. Only 6-12 posts stayed on their feed at any given time.

We followed their lead.

We activated @projectharden, an unpredictable Instagram ride though Harden’s world.

The 12-chapter story kept ‘em guessing.

Each week new content replaced the previous 9 posts. Embedded clues and news encouraged fans to dig and engage.

Followers were glued to the shifting teasers, collectively watching 107 minutes of content per day.

The scoreboard told the story.

Clio Silver for Single-Platform Campaign, 2017
Shorty Winner for Best Use of Instagram, 2017
Rosey Winner for Online Advertising, 2017

Hoops Collective @ All-Star Weekend 2017

The crossover.

Building on the success of Harden, adidas asked us to bring flair to the game of fakes and fadeaways for All-Star 2017.

Flipping the script.

It was time to go back to the consumer. Interviews and research led to an unconventional insight:

Instead of using social to drive traffic to events, design a great offline experience to fuel buzz in social.

Creativity unbound.

We transformed a New Orleans warehouse into a maker’s paradise where visitors could create and post art in real time.

Followers got of-the-minute intel and inspo they couldn’t get anywhere else.

We recruited artists from around the country to interpret All-Star activities as they unfolded.

The ultimate endorsement?

James swung by the Hoops Collective and spotted a pair of hand-painted Hardens he had to have. Adidas got double exposure when he rocked them in the game.

747 Experience @ All-Star 2018

All-in for All-Star Weekend

We were back at courtside in 2018, connecting fans to an immersive two-day extravaganza (dubbed 747) celebrating the wildest, funniest and best of basketball culture.

Our challenge: Bring the hype in social before and during the event.

Working with a crew of 45, we embedded with the client and set up a mobile newsroom to capture the rapid-fire weekend lineup: product drops, panel discussions, a court designed by Pharrell Williams, and of course, Snoop Dogg v. 2 Chainz in All-Star’s first hip-hop hoops battle.

We edited in real time and pushed out exclusive content on 5 global social channels.

And the crowd goes wild.

Views and engagement rates soared past benchmarks.

Best of all, adidas narrowed the voice gap with competitors from 10:1 to less than 4:1.

Time to get cryptic.

To launch Vol. 3 of Harden’s shoe in 2018, we developed mysterious visual stories aligned with five colorway releases.

  • Voyager
  • Cosmos
  • Mission
  • Invader
  • Supernova

To hype the styles, we took fans on an insider journey behind the scenes of an epic Harden studio shoot with legendary basketball photographer Atiba Jefferson.

Using that footage, we built custom, undeniably Harden stories — dynamic, vibrant and unpredictable.

We rocketed each one into viewers’ orbit with eye-popping takeovers on Instagram, giving followers a glimpse of the drops to come.