The shoe game is a tightly laced business, but it appears Adidas is finally giving tenured leader Nike a run for its money. In September, reports came out that adidas had finally surpassed Nike’s Jordan brand to become the #2 shoe brand in the world. Over the past 18-24 months, we’ve seen a radical shift in how adidas & Nike have shifted their brand narrative to capture consumer’s attention, and ultimately, their wallet.
Adidas recently launched their latest creative campaign–packed with highly influential co-creators, “Calling All Creators.” While it’s still early in their campaign, “Calling All Creators” is an absolutely brilliant approach for adidas, which has already had an incredibly successful 2017.
“This open source, this new way, comes to life in something we call Futurecraft, a dedicated initiative to innovate across all elements of the production process for creators by creators. Think of it as a cycle: By creating new production methods that enable creators all over the world, including partners, collaborators and consumers, to customise, personalise and tailor their own design, these creators in return inspire each other and the next generation of adidas products.”
As a slightly avid sneakerhead, watching adidas’ transformation over the past 18-24 months has been incredibly intriguing. In full disclosure, historically, I’ve never been a fan of the adidas brand. Growing up, I wore Nike for casual (school shoes), basketball & track. As a sports fan, Michael Jordan is and always has been the standard. Thus, I was cemented as a Nike fan. Disclaimer: In my mind, the Jordan 6 is the greatest sneaker ever made. Though, my view on adidas has drastically changed over the past 18 months.
Creation of New Performance
The idea of using an inspirational tone is not a new concept — especially within the performance and apparel sector. Under Armour’s “Rule Yourself” won a ton of awards & Nike’s 2012 “Find Your Greatness” campaign was also well received. In fact, I still think this video from Nike is one of the best ads of all-time. However, with both of those, there was still a sliver of performance baked into the campaign. Most of the time, that performance is unattainable for most consumers — though Nike’s approach came close to relating to the general public.
“At the forefront of change… obsessed with progress… those who have a bias for action, who flip the script and break boundaries are the ones who influence how things are done on the field, track, court, stage or street. With a single unexpected act, Creators can inspire others to invent and shape the world around them.”
By shifting toward this new narrative, [In this competitive landscape, right at that border of sport and creativity where we set up camp, we are the creators in front of the white canvas creating the best for the athlete.] adidas removes itself from the conventional approach to performance and positions itself firmly in the intersection of technology, performance and culture. Ultimately, it’s about selling a product. You can see it with both Nike and Under Armour. And make no mistake, adidas wants to sell shoes, but their approach is inherently more authentic and believable.
The other aspect of adidas’ approach is its nod to both millennials and the idea of creation (or documenting). While the concept of performance is heavily sports-based, they do a nice job integrating non-athletic creation with the inclusion of Pharrell, Karlie Kloss, etc. There’s been this fundamental shift around the idea of creativity and creation — which is 100% mainstream now thanks to mobile & the YouTube generation. Again, less traditional apparel performance and more driven on the infusion of technology and creation while allowing innovation to be individually defined by its consumers.
Intersection of Technology
What further enhances this campaign, and also aids in the authenticity, is how seemless this fits adidas’ narrative around creation. In addition to the integration of their co-creators, adidas strengthens its narrative by bridging technology — which is critical in the apparel industry, by showcasing its innovations around BOOST & Futurecraft 4D. This is a natural and engaging way to take that inspirational messaging and tie it back to the brand to further enhance themselves as the leader in technology and innovation.
Lace ‘Em Up
Adidas has always been a culturally relevant brand. Over the past five years, a lot of the focus in the shoe and apparel industry has been around sport performance. However, we’ve begun to see this fundamental shift in society of how we, as consumers, relate and aspire to achieve. Adidas has not only noticed this trend, but has found a way to position itself in a completely natural fashion. It has bridged the importance of individuality and creation with the need for product evolution. It’s answered the most important consumer question — why should I care? Will adidas be able to take down the 100-pound gorilla that is Nike? Unlikely. However, if I’m Nike, I’m completely terrified of adidas.