3 Questions for Adidas’ Markus Baumann

Adidas has a lot to celebrate on the soccer pitch.

The Herzogenaurach, Germany-based sports brand announced on Thursday it expects to surpass its own sales targets in the soccer category this year, hitting 1.6 billion euros in the category — up from the 1.5 billion it did in 2011 (a World Cup year).

“Adidas can already be sure of defending its title as the most successful football brand in Europe and the world,” CEO Herbert Hainer said at a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, before the first quarterfinal game of the Euro 2012 championship, taking place in Poland and the Ukraine.

The two host nations of the soccer tourney this year have represented a special focus for Adidas, said SVP of global football Markus Baumann. Sales in the category have been up 23 percent globally in the first quarter, the company said in the release, but up 50 percent in Poland. And while this year the brand is the market leader in both Poland and the Ukraine for soccer, Baumann said the brand is banking on the games to help Adidas achieve market leadership across categories in Poland by 2015, a position it already holds in the Ukraine.

Here, Footwear News catches up with Baumann about the latest big sports event for the brand.

1. What have you been doing in Poland and the Ukraine to yield these positive results?
We started really early, with the official ball launch [in Kiev] around the official draw [for the final tournament in December 2011]. And we got a year’s head start in Poland working with our retail partners and our own stores on a retail presence and on activation, and we’ve held youth tournaments in both countries. [During the tournament], we are part of the [official] “fan zones,” where kids can try out new product, and there are certain social-media zones to engage with fans who are visiting. We have a lot of activities, as well as throughout both countries, including in smaller cities, where we have shops and distribution. We want them to feel that they also are part of the event, even if they are not hosting.

2. What has been the response at the games so far?
The atmosphere [on the ground] is really great. I had a chance to see the opening game, and it was goosebumps for me. It was an unbelievable experience.

3. How much have you seen of the tournament, and are you getting inspiration from the matches?
The Adidas global football team — the managers, designers and communications team — decided we wanted to see a game together and do it the same way the fans do, so we took a bus from Germany to the north of Poland. We drove eight hours one day, stopped over and watched the Germany/Holland game in a bar and then drove hours the next day to our final destination [in Gdansk, Poland]. It was a great experience. We got all the atmosphere and the emotions, and we saw an exciting game: Spain against Ireland. The designers are already working on the next generation of jerseys, so it was [good] to get close to the fans and see how they wear them. Then we headed home for a 14-hour ride through the night. It was really cool.

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