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Founded in 1949 in the small town of Bavaria, Germany, Adidas has come a long way from its humble origins to become the global success story that it is now.
Constantly innovating and constantly reshaping the sports fashion industry with breakthrough technology, Adidas has established itself as one of the go-to sports brands.
How does Adidas continue to maintain its edge in the increasingly saturated industry?
1. Sponsorships of great sporting events and players
Adidas is the official sponsor or partner of a whole array of sporting leagues, world sports events, Olympic teams, and prominent athletes.
Chances are that you’re all too familiar with the iconic Adidas logo, having seen it adorn the chest of your favorite Champions League football player, or on that TV advertisement in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup.
Adidas and FIFA have been partners since 1970, and in 2013, the two signed an agreement to extend the partnership till 2030, attesting to the marketing success such an internationally hyped event has brought to Adidas.
During the 2012 London Olympics, Adidas sponsored the national teams of Great Britain, France, Germany, Ethiopia and Cuba, and individual athletes such as US 100m sprinter Tyson Gay and Jamaican 100m sprinter Yohan Blake.
Sponsorships are a great way to spread brand awareness to mass audiences, many of whom are avid fans of an athlete or sport, and are all too willing to purchase merchandise related to their obsession.
Word-of-mouth tip: Sponsorships are a great way to increase the visibility of the brand, to make the brand memorable, and to generate tons of hype in relation to a highly anticipated sporting event or athlete’s performance.
2. Social media engagement – “The Dugout” used YouTube to allow fans around the world to engage directly with their favorite stars
The Dugout was a series of interactive interviews and shows about the 2014 Rio FIFA World Cup, featuring prominent stars such as Brazilian trio Kaka, Cafu, and Luca Moura.
This video content was broadcasted to the masses using the widely used video-sharing platform, YouTube.
For the first time in World Cup history, fans all over the world had the opportunity to submit questions to their favorite stars, with selected ones being answered in the style of a virtual press conference.
According to Adidas, this new content marketing strategy was designed to "focus on moments that can happen at any time, to any player, which gives us a platform to take Adidas beyond its basic sponsorship."
Adidas spokesperson Rob Hughes wrote that “by delivering cutting-edge integrated marketing experiences, we aim to cement our position as the number one brand in football.”
The success of the Dugout was apparent, with Adidas Youtube channel subscriptions having reportedly tripled during the World Cup, and content generated for the World Cup generating more than 1.5 billion impressions on Youtube.
Word-of-mouth tip: When it comes to millennial consumers, effective marketing has to focus on social engagement that allows the consumer to feel involved and relevant. This is also a great way to build hype around an event, generating tons of word-of-mouth.
3. Designer collaborations, marrying sports and fashion together
Adidas has done a number of highly successful designer collaborations in the past and continues to produce even better ones each year.
Some examples of such collaborations include the current Adidas by Stella McCartney, the Y-3 product line with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, and Adidas x Jeremy Scott.
These designer collaborations produce radical new styles of the product, thereby enlarging the appeal of the brand to even greater audiences.
These designer collaborations also bring inspiration to in-house Adidas designers, encouraging them to be more adventurous in their designs.
Word-of-mouth tip: Designer collaborations are a great way to expand the appeal of the brand beyond the average customer, to the fashion-conscious who possess different types of style. These brand collaborations generate a lot of hype organically via word-of-mouth.
4. Collaborations with famous celebrities
Adidas Yeezy Boosts. Need we say more?
The Adidas x Kanye West collaboration achieved phenomenal success, contributing to a 45% increase in sales growth in the financial quarter of the Yeezy Season 3 launch.
In fact, Adidas reported that the Yeezy Boosts “not only sold out instantly by also played a major role in propelling Adidas to the most popular sneaker brand on Instagram in 2015.”
The Adidas x Kanye West collaboration generated so much hype for the brand and has been one of the most successful fashion brand collaborations to date.
Adidas has other noteworthy celebrity collaborations that have made the brand synonymous with high street cred.
The Adidas Stan Smith collection, named after the former world No. 1 American Tennis player is one such example of a permanent collection that is highly sought after by fashion-conscious millennials.
Word-of-mouth tip: Celebrities have huge fan followings who are eager to consume products endorsed by their idols. By collaborating with celebrities to create new collections, Adidas achieves social capital and street cred, simultaneously boosting the sales of other non-exclusive collections.