Adidas hasn’t always been the athletic apparel heavyweight it is today. Not by a long shot.
Founded nearly 100 years ago in Bavaria, Germany, Adidas’s rise to greatness is a story of struggle and triumph. Over the years, racing head-to-head with superstar rival companies by the likes of Puma and Nike has caused Adidas’s market share to ebb and flow, including a near bankruptcy back in the 80’s. However, when Robert Louis-Dreyfus took over as CEO in the early 90’s, Adidas stopped to re-examine itself from both a product and consumer engagement standpoint, marking a turning point in its storied legacy.
Since then, the company has rebuilt itself from the ground up, thriving as an innovator and a leader in the athletic space. Its diverse product line, which includes an array of athletic performance shoes and apparel, speaks for itself. But the tight race it finds itself running year after year has led Adidas to adopt a fierce marketing strategy that has always included experience-driven marketing, inclusion, and relationships at its core. Today, Adidas has continued to hone and modernize their strategy, proving that taking an inclusive and experience-driven approach to marketing and consumer engagement has kept the brand ahead of the pack.
Accounting for Every Athlete
Adidas’s innovation runs deeper than hyper-tuned performance products. Last year, it launched the She Breaks Barriers campaign, which advocates for wider media coverage of women’s sports. Per Adidas’s web copy, only 4 percent of US sports coverage is dedicated to female athletes. In response, Adidas crafted the following message for its audience to copy/paste from Adidas.com and send to their local news stations:
To whom it may concern,
I am writing to address the lack of women's sports I see on your channel.
Nationally, only 4% of sports coverage is dedicated to female athletes. This lack of visibility keeps young girls from seeing their role models and learning the lifelong benefits of sports.
Please give women's sports the coverage they deserve so they can inspire young girls to play, to learn and to live more confident lives.
Thank you for bringing more visibility to female athletes,
To further empower female athletes around the world, Adidas is doubling down by partnering with the one and only Queen Bey to bring a new line of sneakers and athleisure wear to market. Just last month, Beyoncé unveiled the collaboration in a series of Instagram posts, each receiving several million likes in under an hour.
“This is the partnership of a lifetime for me,” Beyoncé said in a statement. “Adidas has had tremendous success in pushing creative boundaries. We share a philosophy that puts creativity, growth and social responsibility at the forefront of the business.”
With Beyoncé at its side (or more likely, the other way around), you can expect Adidas to cop a significant portion of the ever-expanding female “sneakerhead” market – as well as the female athleisure market. Here Adidas proves that promoting gender inclusivity is certainly taking a place on the right side of history. And rather than producing colorful ads that showcase women and people of color sporting its apparel, Adidas recognizes the contribution of women in sports, putting values ahead of product – a strategy that resonates with modern consumers.
A recent Business Insider article said it best: Nike should be terrified.
Taking the Adidas Experience on Tour
As online shopping continues to gain clout, companies are forced to invent new and exciting ways to engage customers in person. According to Adidas’s Global Director of Digital and Retail Marketing, Swave Szymczyk, a sound experiential marketing strategy is more important than ever.
“Stores will change, there will be less products, there will be more interactions in stores. For bigger brands like Adidas it will be about providing more and more of those interesting, creative experiences that actually mean something to the consumer,” Szymcyzk told Marketing Week.
Earlier this year, Adidas looked to the all-talented Donald Glover to give Coachella festival-goers an Adidas experience they wouldn’t soon forget. The strategy was simple. Glover used iOS AirDrop to share a photo of his unreleased Adidas exclusives with random concert-goers. Those who accepted the Airdrop invitation received a free pair of the sneakers. All they had to do was sign a “contract” stating that they would wear the shoes all weekend long.
Just like that, Adidas generated hundreds, if not thousands (we aren’t sure exactly how many pairs of shoes Glover gave away) of walking billboards at one of the most Instagram-friendly events of the year. Plus, it surprised and delighted its primary demographic straight at the source. It was, without a doubt, an experience to remember.
This Race Isn’t Close to Over
In just four months, Adidas has done enough for its brand to call 2019 a win already. But when you think about it, it’s only laid the groundwork for continued success throughout this year and beyond. Who knows what experiential campaign Adidas will roll out next –doors Beyoncé could open for the brand – how it will surprise its fans.
What we do know is that Adidas’s recent success largely stems from the very revelation that resuscitated the brand back in the late 80’s: Focus on the athlete’s (consumer’s) needs first.
So far this year, that’s involved listening to and including consumers in its communication efforts, surprising them with unforgettable experiences, and for the sake of all things Beyoncé, associating with whom they admire most.
Think you can’t keep up with a company as prestigious as Nike? Think again. If there’s one thing Adidas has taught us so far in 2019, it’s that impossible really is nothing.