How Adidas Is Changing the Lives of Underserved Children Through Sports

Within a 2-mile radius of Watts, Calif., there are thousands of active gang members. Around 50 percent of children don’t graduate from high school, and just nearly 5 percent of residents have completed a bachelor’s degree.

Adidas aims to bring change to the South Los Angeles community — and many like it — through the power of sport.

And the sportswear giant is leading the effort from within.

“Two years ago, we made a concerted effort around what we call ‘Social Purpose,'” said Tauna Dean, director of the employee-driven outreach program, which serves communities in need throughout the country and beyond.  “One of the things our leadership in North America wanted to make sure is that we’re reaching people in our backyard in the U.S.”

From July 16 to Aug. 17, Adidas employees participated in its “Month of Purpose,” comprising volunteer projects near the brand’s big hubs in Portland, Ore., N.Y., L.A., Spartanburg, S.C., and Indianapolis.

“Our core belief is, through sport, we have the power to change lives,” Dean explained. “We can change lives with a focus through our mission of removing barriers to sports for underserved kids.”

The five-week program culminated at the Watts Empowerment Center, where around 200 of the brand’s team members helped to refurbish a baseball diamond, create a new soccer pitch and basketball court, and provided shoes and sports gear.

Justin Mayo, executive director of Red Eye, a nonprofit that worked with Adidas at the center, said the new developments will reinvigorate the community and offer a safe place for youths. “It’s the largest area in California of single-parent homes,” Mayo said. “Everyone wants quality programing for their kids — what parent wouldn’t?”

According to the Watts Empowerment Center’s website, its programs, which also include mentorship and academic support, help to reduce “depression symptoms” and increases “social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades.”

“We’re grateful that Adidas is making it so that what’s happening here doesn’t just impact the people here, but it impacts thousands of people outside this area,” Mayo added.

Adidas has organized similar community service initiatives for years, Dean said, but the brand developed its “Social Purpose” platform with a more defined mission two years ago. “The big difference was honing in and focusing in on helping kids gain access to sports.”

Some of the hurdles that Adidas has identified include equipment, safe spaces and cultural barriers.

“We know that girls are dropping out of organized competitive sports faster than boys are,” Dean said. “We know at Adidas that sports delivers lifelong lessons. Getting girls to play is critical.”

Since Social Purpose is powered by Adidas staff members, the company provides eight hours per quarter for them to volunteer. “That’s our baseline — but we have people who go far above that and do that on their own time. Our leadership is very encouraging of that,” Dean said.

Zion Armstrong, who was named president of North America in April, is one its biggest supporters.

“He’s so passionate about this [program] — not only sharing the message but picking up shovels and playing with kids,” Dean shared. “Having that commitment from the top down has been imperative to the success of ‘Social Purpose’ as well.”

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