Marketer of the Year: Adidas

To win favor around the world — and with American teenagers, in particular — Adidas went all in in 2011.

In March, the Herzogenaurach, Germany-based athletic giant launched its largest advertising campaign to date. “All Adidas” debuted online and on television around the world with a 60-second spot that brought all its lines together with a heaping serving of star power, including cameos by Katy Perry, David Beckham, B.o.B., Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose.

The ads, which showed pinnacle performance styles, as well as fashion and lifestyle product from Adidas Originals and Y-3, represent the the company’s first definitive brand statement since 2004’s “Impossible Is Nothing.” And while the company doesn’t disclose figures, it is its largest to date. (Some sources have estimated “Impossible Is Nothing” to have been a $50 million investment.)

The push comes at a critical time for Adidas, said CEO Herbert Hainer. Speaking to Footwear News earlier in the year, he characterized the campaign, which was conceived in Germany and created by the company’s agency, Montreal’s Sid Lee, as a key element in the brand’s quest to reinforce its position as a global player and hit 17 billion euros by 2015.

“[Since 2004], we’ve broken it up [and focused] on categories with football ads, basketball ads, etc.,” Hainer said. “We said it’s time to bring it together again to show the consumer what Adidas is all about. It’s not just football and not just Originals.”

That message especially resonated in the U.S., where the “All Adidas” campaign has been a big part of a plan to attract the teenage customer, said Adidas America President Patrik Nilsson.

And while the mix of athletes and celebrities — and lines — was unorthodox, CoreBrand managing director Tim Robinson said he thought it had potential to reach that target shopper. “The campaign has created some awareness and raised eyebrows,” he said. “People who know it are looking at the brand, and that is good. There’s clearly an attempt to appeal to a younger audience, as some of the risk they’ve faced has been being seen as a little out of step with current trends. They’re trying to rectify that.”

With that focus on teens came a bigger concentration on social media, especially YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The new ad campaign also was designed to focus attention on American-specific sports such as basketball. In June, a hoops spot starring Chicago Bull Derrick Rose and his new Crazy ­Light basketball product started airing, as well as a soccer-focused ad featuring U.S. athletes David Beckham, Juan Aguedelo and Kenny Cooper Jr.

Then, in August, the brand highlighted lifestyle merchandise with an Originals-focused ad featuring Snoop Dogg, Dwight Howard and Jeremy Scott, among others.

“We needed to have more focus, with fewer concepts and more categories that are relevant with our core consumer group, and this is really built on all those pillars,” Nilsson said.

So far, the strategy has paid off.

The 60-second U.S. commercial has racked up 2.5 million views on YouTube. In the U.S., the company said it saw a 143 percent increase in overall Facebook fans and a 175 percent increase in fans in the key 13-to-17 age group.

Such success has translated into sales, too. September was the eighth consecutive month of double-digit revenue growth in footwear for the brand in the U.S., according to The NPD Group. And Sportscan Info reported that Adidas now has 6 percent market share, up from 4.9 percent a year ago.

Additionally, the company reported a 99 percent spike in U.S. traffic to its e-commerce site, with a 77 percent rise in total sales there versus last year.

According to Nilsson, the “All Adidas” campaign may well continue next year, shaped into new forms to highlight fresh initiatives. The executive also hinted that it may have an even bigger budget.

“Our best work is yet to come,” he said. “We have so much runway and so much potential at year two of this six-year plan [that after] creating that base, we can now operate at a higher level.”

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