Commentary

Adidas' Game Plan: Act Like It Belongs Here

After slipping behind Under Armour in the sportswear market earlier this year, No. 3 Adidas is launching an all-out effort to show it has got game in the U.S. market and will use popular athletes in mainstream sports to make itself relevant to consumers here.

“I know we’re a soccer brand globally, but in the U.S. we have to be about U.S. sport. We can still be No. 1 in soccer, but that can’t be what drives our business,” Adidas North American President Mark King tells the Wall Street Journal’s Sara Germano.

The company could sign as many “as many as 250 National Football League players and 250 Major League Baseball players over the next three years, up from a total of fewer than 40 now,” Germano reports, although “the new goal doesn’t mean Adidas will actually be able to add that many athletes or secure worthwhile deals.”

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A deal with the NFL earlier this year allows Adidas’ endorsers to wear the brand’s three-stripe logos on their equipment, as Germano reports. Previously, only No. 1 “Nike and Under Armour athletes were allowed to wear cleats and gloves with branding since both companies had official status with the NFL,” ESPN’s Darren Rovell pointed out in October.

Basketball will be a big part of the mix, too, if a release party at Adidas’ U.S. headquarters in Portland, Ore., yesterday for a new shoe endorsed by the Portland Trailblazers guard Damian Lillard is any indication.

“Lillard settled on themes of family, home and music Tuesday to officially introduce the D Lillard 1 — his first-ever signature shoe,” writes  Allan Brettman of The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Perhaps Lillard's most significant nod to his roots was the asking price for the sneaker: $105,” Brettman continues. “… Lillard told an audience assembled at the Adidas Village gym that he specifically requested the shoe not include the brand's proprietary insole cushioning ‘Boost,’ to keep the price down.”

His influence extended to the design and character of the shoe, too.

“Each of the four colorways of the D Lillard 1 … features specially crafted rap lyrics in the insole, written by Lillard himself,” reportsSports Illustrated’sTim Newcomb.  

The shoe also features a prominent logo. 

“Robbie Fuller, Adidas basketball design director, tells SI.com that going large on the logos was something new, akin to Lillard’s game. But he was going to go even larger,” Newcomb writes. “We don’t have stripes on the side,” Fuller tells Newcomb “so let’s scale up the logos so they are real prominent. We had a few versions bigger than this, but the final scale was based on [Lillard’s] recommendation.”

“Lillard explained that the process took about a year to complete with him going back to the Adidas offices frequently with suggestions for the shoe,” Erik Gundersen writes on Columbian.com. They will cost $105 at retail starting Feb. 6.

“It’s big. It’s a dream come true. It’s an honor for me,” Lillard said, Gundersen reports. 

Speaking on Bloomberg Surveillance TV yesterday, Adidas North America president King said that the reason Adidas is moving its design operation from Germany to Brooklyn, as previously announced, is “we’re finding it’s very hard to be miles and miles away across an ocean and say we can relate to high school kids” who are “the core of the market.” 

With the U.S. representing 45% of the global sporting market, Adidas admittedly needs to be more relevant in every way — from design to “nuance of messaging” to focusing more on the U.S. consumer and athlete.

King also made it clear that Adidas is committed to its multi-brand strategy and has no intention of rolling its TaylorMade and Reebok products into Adidas. TaylorMade is suffering from the systemic problems golf is experiencing, King indicated, while Reebok will continue to build on its cachet as a fitness brand.

 “There are opportunities to build those brands individually,” King said.

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