THE CONSUMER AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO
Global Brands oversees the innovation, design, development and marketing of the company’s sports and lifestyle offerings. By constantly developing desirable products and providing inspiring experiences, the function strives to build a strong image as well as trust and loyalty with consumers to capitalize on growth opportunities in the sporting goods industry.
The adidas brand has a long history and deep-rooted connection with sport. We believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives. This is our purpose, and we live it every day by expanding the limits of human possibilities, including and uniting people in sport and creating a more sustainable world. For us to continue to transcend cultures and remain one of the most recognized and iconic brands, on and off the field of play, we need to maintain credibility. This means delivering groundbreaking innovations in sports, as well as cutting-edge fashion items that are culturally relevant. As we are continuously sharpening our edges in adidas ‘Performance’ and ‘Lifestyle,’ we have introduced our new ‘Sportswear’ proposition as a part of adidas’ updated brand architecture.
With the first collection launching in 2022, ‘Sportswear’ will be the modern product born from sport and worn for style, enabling self-expression and comfort. adidas ‘Performance’ is built and worn for sport, focusing on providing the athlete with the best product to enable them to perform inside the lines of the playing field. Leading our fashion and luxury segment, adidas Originals is inspired by sport and worn on the streets. The Trefoil will celebrate iconic products that connect to culture, leveraging our exceptional archive, and expanding into new premium segments.
ICONIC PRODUCT FRANCHISES
We are convinced that footwear has the highest influence on brand perception among product categories and is a powerful driver of consumer desire, a proven lever for growing market share. Access to athlete data, cutting-edge technological innovations and an archive that is unrivaled in the industry provide deep insights and ample opportunity to create newness and innovation in footwear, adding new chapters to our brand’s rich heritage. At the same time, we have a clear strategy to reduce the number of footwear models, putting a stronger focus on key franchises. Simply put, franchises are our most iconic symbols of sport and culture acting as lighthouses for our brand. Franchises not only shape sport, but also influence culture. They offer the best of adidas to the consumer while creating new trends and building brand equity. They are directly targeted at the consumer through iconic designs, functionality and unique stories, and have the potential to be iterated and expanded over time. Their life cycles are tightly managed to ensure longevity and relevance with the consumer. Key footwear franchises for the adidas brand include, among others, Ultraboost, NMD, and Superstar. In 2021, key footwear franchises of the adidas brand represented more than 35% of its footwear business. On the apparel side, the brand continues to build out franchises such as the MyShelter Jacket, the Tiro Pant, and the Z.N.E. Hoodie.
BRAND DESIRABILITY FUELED BY INNOVATION AND COLLABORATIONS
In addition to leveraging iconic product franchises, creating innovative concepts to meet the needs of athletes and consumers is a prerequisite to strengthening our market position and a premise to being the best sports brand in the world. We remain highly committed to maintaining a full and innovative concept pipeline, bringing new groundbreaking technologies and processes to life, investing in sustainability, and exploring all the possibilities of digitalization. Technologies such as Boost, Lightstrike, Repetitor, 4D, and Strung are proof points for our broader technology and innovation approach.
The modern innovation landscape extends beyond product and increasingly requires innovation teams to consider the development of experiences and services, as well as the provision of greater levels of transparency and direct integration of our consumer through co-creation. In partnership with our ‘Trend & Cultural Insights’ teams, foresight and trend analyses are shared on an ongoing basis, documenting shifts in society and culture. True to the vision of creative collaboration, our innovation approach is widely based on this open-source mindset, which provides the starting point to build concepts of relevance.
We also collaborate with athletes and consumers, universities and innovative companies, as well as national and international governments and research organizations. We are enhancing our innovative collaboration with both our established partners such as BASF, Carbon, Parley for the Oceans and Allbirds, whilst simultaneously seeking out new ones such as Pond Biomaterials, Spinnova, and Bolt Threads.
COMMERCIALIZATION OF INNOVATIONS
We believe developing industry-leading technologies, materials and consumer experiences is only one aspect of being an innovative leader. Equally important is the successful commercialization of those innovative concepts.
We have a long heritage of innovation and strive to provide athletes with the best by creating high-performance, competitive products. In 2021, we continued to serve consumers with innovative technologies, materials and sustainable concepts built into our products:
- 4DFWD: With this, adidas has accelerated 4D’s development from a conceptual innovation to a running shoe available in large quantities and multiple variations that will continue to be scaled further. The adidas 4D concept features midsoles 3D-printed with light and oxygen using Digital Light Synthesis, a unique technology developed by Carbon, to produce high-performance footwear. The new adidas 4DFWD lattice midsole was chosen from one of five million possible structures and is made of 40% bio-based material. The FWDcell redirects vertical impact forces forward leading to a 15% reduction of peak braking force experienced by the athlete. The midsole pioneers a digital footwear component creation process that eliminates the necessity of traditional prototyping or molding.
- Adizero Adios Pro 2: The new iteration of our record-breaking elite performance shoe represents the pinnacle of our running product offer. The shoe features two layers of re-sculpted Lightstrike Pro midsole and the signature carbon-infused EnergyRODS. These are designed to mimic the foot’s metatarsals, delivering an anatomically driven transition from heel to toe, limiting energy loss and providing a propulsive feeling. Beyond this, we were able to reduce the weight of the midsole, alter the upper for a more natural fit, and add a Continental rubber outsole for better grip. The adizero Adios Pro 2 is a high-performance running shoe created for elite athletes and was developed in collaboration with some of the fastest athletes in the world. Since its launch, our athletes were able to break six world records with this franchise.
- Futurenatural: Foot scans of thousands of basketball athletes worldwide were analyzed to create a new last, or shoe mold that delivers an anatomically correct representation of an athlete’s foot. The one-piece shoe mold works with an athlete’s natural movement to unlock total freedom of movement and dynamic angles. The first iteration of the technology applied to footwear was featured on James Harden’s fifth signature basketball sneaker, the Harden Vol. 5. The textured upper of the shoe is forged using extreme pressure from all directions and then assembled to the outsole creating a seamless design. This offers the athlete a superior stability and full ground contact for a natural feel.
- Predator Freak Vegan: With this, we revealed our first 100% vegan football boot, designed in collaboration with Paul Pogba and Stella McCartney. The limited-edition boot offers the latest performance innovations from the Predator franchise with vegan materials and components that meet the requirements of football players on all levels. adidas Demonskin rubber spikes in signal orange were calibrated by a computer algorithm to afford improved ball control and swerve.
- Made To Be Remade (MTBR): The concept was introduced in 2019 with the Futurecraft.Loop but has come a long way since. In 2021, we have increased our MTBR product line-up and made progress in our efforts toward circularity. Every MTBR product has a QR code attached to it, functioning as a gateway to a digital experience, educating and engaging consumers whilst also enabling them to return the product. We are excited to be scaling MTBR across franchises with the Stan Smith and Terrex Free Hiker having joined the line-up alongside the Ultraboost. Furthermore, our offering was expanded by new MTBR Running and adidas by Stella McCartney apparel. With this, we are offering performance- and lifestyle-focused MTBR footwear and apparel at a greater scale, providing more choice to our consumers.
- adidas x Allbirds Futurecraft.Footprint: Seeing the possibilities of accelerating a carbon-neutral future for sports and style, we teamed up with Allbirds to create a performance running shoe with a carbon footprint of merely 2.94kg (measured against a comparable running shoe: adizero RC3 at 7.86kg C02e emission) – a personal best for both brands. It is the result of a collective ambition to make a performance running shoe with no carbon footprint. In under 12 months, we reimagined materials, manufacturing techniques, and even packaging to reach the lowest possible CO2e impact – whilst chasing the vision for a low-carbon shoe without compromising performance.
Beyond innovative technologies, sustainable concepts, and materials, key products and collaborations of the 2021 business year include:
- Techfit Period-Proof Tights: These are part of our commitment to better support the needs of our diverse female community. We set out to create a product that helps athletes stay in sport throughout their cycle by giving them an added layer of protection. After over two years of development and rigorous testing, the Techfit Period-Proof Tights have a set of absorbent layers and a membrane that help protect against leaks thanks to our new Flow Shield technology, giving athletes added confidence whilst training through their period. The Techfit Period-Proof collection was our first step in creating performance wear that supports women during their period, with more to come down the line.
- Blue Version: This is the pinnacle of our apparel range as a fashion concept. The collection represents a selection of our most iconic adidas Originals pieces which are authentically premiumized. The products show that Originals – then, now, and in the future – can influence generations through high-quality lifestyle products inspired by sportswear.
- Forum: This sneaker shaped basketball culture in the 1980s. Designed to help players improve their game, it dominated the court and later took over the streetwear scene. In 2021, the silhouette was re-introduced to a new generation, supported through many exciting collaborative drops such as the ‘Bad Bunny Forum Back to School’ sneaker. Here, adidas Originals and rapper Bad Bunny teamed up for a new take on the silhouette.
- adidas x Marimekko: In 2021, we unveiled a debut line with Marimekko, marking the first-ever sports apparel collaboration for the iconic Finnish design house. The limited-edition collection featured a lineup of beautiful, bold pieces that blend Marimekko’s art of printmaking and functional style with adidas’ expertise in sports performance. The collaboration marked a true collision of icons, with a shared history of pushing boundaries of innovation and style for over seven decades. The all-female teams worked side by side to explore Marimekko’s vaults to handpick timeless prints for this collection and beyond.
IMPACTFUL AND EFFECTIVE MARKETING INVESTMENTS
An additional important building block of creating brand desirability and winning the consumer are our marketing investments. adidas is focused on creating inspirational and innovative concepts that drive consumer advocacy and build brand equity. The company historically spends almost half of its marketing investment on partners, with the remainder spent on brand marketing activities such as digital, advertising, point-of-sale, and grassroots activations. In addition, the company will further consolidate and focus resources to create powerful brand statements overarching several categories under one narrative. This will be achieved by focusing on two main drivers:
- Brand drivers: Brand campaigns are at the pinnacle of our communication strategy. They demonstrate our purpose ‘Through sport, we have the power to change lives,’ conveying to consumers what adidas stands for, and driving a globally consistent positioning. Furthermore, brand campaigns support adidas’ brand priorities of sport and culture credibility, sustainability, and inclusivity by establishing an emotional connection through the brand narrative. adidas also authenticates the brand in using sport moments as platforms to drive sports credibility by enabling athlete and event activations. Lastly, we leverage our partnerships, for example with Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Pharrell Williams, to drive brand heat and freshness in lifestyle through partner activation and special product executions.
- Commercial drivers: Product campaigns are created to focus on a specific product franchise (e.g., Ultraboost or Forum). These campaigns are driven by a clear performance or style benefit and are expressed through storytelling around products’ unique selling propositions. Additional commercial content is driving conversion at the point of sale (in-store and online) by highlighting a product feature or benefit for key items, volume drivers, and key franchises.
- Impossible is Nothing: In 2021, adidas (re-)launched the brand campaign ‘Impossible is Nothing’ to impactfully demonstrate the brand attitude of rebellious optimism told through the stories of sports marketing partners and entertainment influencers across categories globally. ‘Impossible is Nothing’ was originally introduced in 2004 (with Muhammad Ali) and is now brought to a new generation of athletes, artists, and consumers. When we relaunched our ‘Impossible is Nothing’ brand campaign in spring 2021, optimism in the world was in short supply. Yet adidas chose to see possibilities. We partnered with athletes and artists around the globe to share their stories of hope, inclusion, sustainability, and belonging, inspiring all people to see their own possibilities. The ‘Impossible is Nothing’ brand attitude launched in 50 countries resulting in over one billion social media views, garnering over 18million engagements. The campaign connected with people who see themselves and their own story in the narrative. In fall/winter 2021, our ‘Impossible is Nothing’ campaign continued with more stories focused on ‘innovation’ with the adizero franchise, and ‘credibility’ with Lionel Messi, Peres Jepchirchir, and Candace Parker.
- Members Week: To continue the success of ‘Members Week 2020,’ we held this week-long digital festival twice in 2021 to celebrate the best of adidas, bringing together some of the biggest artists and athletes for consumers. During Members Week in May, an exciting list of raffle opportunities was offered to members to win exclusive products and experiences. Items included digital meet and greets with top athletes such as Dominic Thiem and a giveaway of tickets for the UEFA EURO final and semi-final games. The Members Week in August was kicked off with a celebration of Lionel Messi as well as the Ivy Park Rodeo collection. Synced with Members Week, the celebration was expanded to the Confirmed app for the sneakerheads and streetwear community. Members were eligible to win tickets, which would get them a guaranteed shot at exclusive drops of collaborations with Pharrell Williams, Kerwin Frost, and Jeremy Scott.
In terms of partners and athletes, while being conscious of overall marketing spend, we will continue to bring our products to the biggest stages in the world through:
- Events with global reach: FIFA Men’s World Cup, UEFA Women’s EURO, UEFA Champions League (men’s and women’s), and the Boston and Berlin Marathons, among others.
- High-profile teams: National association football teams of Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Spain, as well as top football clubs such as Arsenal London, Bayern Munich, Flamengo Rio de Janeiro, Juventus Turin, Manchester United and Real Madrid, the New Zealand All Blacks in rugby, national Olympic associations such as the British Olympic Association and German Olympic Sports Confederation as well as American universities such as the University of Miami, Arizona State University, University of Washington, and Texas A&M University.
- High-profile individuals: Football stars Lionel Messi, Mo Salah, Paul Pogba, Serge Gnabry, Manuel Neuer, Heung-min Son, Vivianne Miedema, Wendie Renard and Jürgen Klopp; basketball stars Candace Parker, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden, Trae Young and Derrick Rose; American football players Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Trevor Lawrence as well as tennis stars Garbiñe Muguruza, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas, alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, and outdoor athletes Sasha DiGiulian and Danny MacAskill.
Under the ‘Lifestyle’ category, we subsume all footwear, apparel, and ‘accessories and gear’ products that are born from sport and worn for style. ‘adidas Originals,’ which is inspired by sport and worn on the street, is at the heart of the ‘Lifestyle’ category.
Parley for the Oceans
‘Parley for the Oceans’ is an environmental organization and global collaboration network. Founded in 2012, the initiative aims to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of the oceans, and to inspire and empower diverse groups such as pacesetting companies, brands, organizations, governments, artists, designers, scientists, innovators and environmentalists in the exploration of new ways of creating, thinking and living on our finite, blue planet.