Growing up in suburban America, I came of age during a time when an Abercrombie & Fitch jean skirt and a pair of Adidas Original sneakers were the mark of social competence. Up until recently, I considered both of those brands throwback references—to be remembered with equal parts nostalgia and cringing. While both have made moves toward a turnaround, it’s Adidas that’s blown me away recently by hitting all the right notes of a true comeback. The First Move It’s not as if Adidas has done anything to hurt their brand over the last decade. In fact, they’ve been quietly doing quite well for a while. Their retail stores in major markets offer an innovative experience and totally updated look and feel, and the Adidas x Stella McCartney collaboration (launched in 2004) continues to feel fresh and relevant—and succeed where other athletic brands have really missed the mark—combining true style with athletic function and material. In 2013 Adidas announced their Season 1 Yeezy clothing and footwear collaboration with Kanye West. It seems that this past year the hype around the “Adidas Yeezy 350 Boost” finally spilled beyond the sneakerhead community, spurred by the fashion world’s intense interest in sneakers, and captured major attention. I remember noticing a pair on a man next to me on 7th avenue in January, and wondering if they sold the same version in women’s. When I later realized what I’d been coveting I remember thinking—regardless of the collaboration—the product design is totally on-trend. More recent brand collaborations pushing Adidas toward relevancy include releases with both A$AP Rocky (partnering with designer Jeremy Scott for a one-off sneaker, “the JS Wings 2.0 Black Flag,” you may have noticed them, they literally have wings) and A$AP Ferg (skateboarding collection).
I love a good comeback. Especially from a brand that lost its way not by any major misstep, but rather by being a little too quiet for a little too long.
The problem, in my opinion, lies in making great strategic moves as a brand but doing nothing to put yourself where your consumer’s attention is.
For me, Adidas’ quiet incubation ended on February 14th of this year. I have no doubt Adidas knew exactly what they were doing when they posted a photo featuring two women on Valentine’s Day with the caption “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” While certainly they are not the first big brand to take a stand for equality via advertising, I can’t remember a brand so adamantly and eloquently shutting down trollers and haters alike with responses like, “No, this day is for LOVE. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
They got my attention that day, and they launched a total onslaught of content across Instagram and Facebook afterward that has solidified a newfound interest in the brand. Slay, Collabs, Slay Karlie Kloss (Model; Coder; Famed member of T Swift’s Squad). Hannah Bronfman (Fitness and Beauty Guru; DJ). Morgan Brian (US Women’s Soccer Player; World Cup Winner). The women featured in Adidas’ #heretocreate campaign read like a who’s who of inspirational influencers across categories, each with a unique take on fitness, creativity AND achievement. These ultra short videos are perfectly paced: you’ve watched half of the content before you’ve even thought about scrolling by.
The right format, on the right platform, with the right collaborators at the right time (post-dinner aimless scrolling, am I right?). Without shelling out Under Armour level dollars for Giselle, Adidas has pinpointed the cultural nexus of multidimensional accomplished women with overlapping but not entirely similar, engaged followings. Adidas’ #heretocreate campaign’s ultra-digestible video content is inspirational, entertaining and leaves you wanting more—fitting as it’s seeming more and more clear that video, specifically on mobile, is the future of marketing. This content marketing effort is a great push from the Adidas brand to reclaim their territory and category position from brands that have overshadowed them lately (read GoPro; Nike; Under Armour). It’s a move toward appealing to former brand loyalists like myself who feel a bit of nostalgia for Adidas but weren’t captivated by the sneakerhead collaborations (Kanye, A$AP, etc.) and capturing the attention of new audiences. What does the future look like? A comeback isn’t about shedding brand DNA, it’s about showcasing the best of what was, and promoting what’s to come. In my opinion, Adidas made an important step in that direction by bringing back the Stan Smith Original in early 2014 (Originally released in 1964; Branding Journal has a really great article about the strategy behind that shoe here.) With spring on the horizon the time is right for a sporting goods brand to vie for mindshare. I have a feeling I’m not the only one with with a lot of heart for Adidas, and I can’t wait to see their next move.