The changing face of sport – adidas on ‘Creating the New’

Always first in line to explore emerging talent in the fitness and fashion community, adidas continues expand on their 2020 vision

Adidas is like a freak-shake. A mis-match collection that everyone loves, posts on social media about and totally transforms to make their own. The tribe of urban-A-lites have constantly created and then recreated a fluid, non-binary, fashionable approach to the clothing brand, enlisting countless collaborations over the years. Yet with their current long term business plan ‘Creating the New’, adidas are reclaiming the athletics lost in athleisure and are honing in on the phenomenal females dominating the fitness industry.

The business model planned to accelerate sales and overall profit of female sports apparel by 10-12% on average by 2020. However Kaspar Rorsted, CEO of adidas AG, explains they now instead, aim to grow 20-22% year on year as a result of their increasingly female focus.

Fundamentally grounding their values on speed, global cities and ‘open source’ (creative collaborations), adidas are crushing competitors such as Nike and Under Armour with their constant evolution as a wardrobe staple. With their focus now targeting women at a grassroots level, particularly through their digital presence, brand ambassadors and ‘fitfluencers’ like London blogger Zanna Van Dijk and Adrienne Herbet, are encouraging women to participate in the sporting culture. “It’s aspirational,” says Olivier Fraser, sales manager at Fitness First, “to see women from all over the world and all different backgrounds getting involved in the fitness industry despite their many differences.”

As a continuation of the brand’s earlier sporting history, the endorsements of entertainment figures alongside professional athletes makes the brand approachable from all angles. In conversation with adidas’ senior vice president of brand marketing, Eric Liedtke explains that they’re trying to connect with the women that “follow their own circle of influencers”, typically made up in the social media realms. Record sales of over £15 billion in 2016 were largely drawn from e-commerce – hence the push.

Building on last year’s #heretocreate, adidas released a series of short Youtube videos under the theme: ‘Unleash Your Creativity’. The videos explore 15 unique stories of global female athletes, refreshing the typically male dominated scene. By encouraging consumers to defy conventional standards of women in sport, adidas brings light on the ignorance surrounding the strong female influence in the fitness industry.

“Hard work is a given. We believe that athletes who tap into their creativity have a powerful edge,” explains Lia Stierwalt, senior director of global brand communications at adidas, ”this new film series continues to reinforce the brand’s point of view that engaging an athlete’s imagination to unleash their creativity will take them further than their mind or body ever could.”

Abiding by adidas’ philosophy of celebrating uniqueness and breaking conventions, the latest global push features the likes of international supermodel Karlie Kloss, champion kickboxer Ruqsana Begum and professional tennis player Simona Halep all of whom tie together creativity and athletics In a celebration of accomplishment in all aspects of life, these videos are part of the first instalment in the Sports16 initiative. “We are obsessed with the versatile female athlete,” explains Nicole Vollebregt, adidas’ head of womenswear. “Women who love sports, make decisions every day to live an active life and are helping to change sports around the world,” she continues.

Women’s sport is a largely untapped market, but the rise of athleisure and the presence of women in fitness spaces is providing brands with new marketing opportunities. Beyond advertising campaigns, adidas are specifically engineering a new range of products for women in the industry. Collaborating with US captain and World Cup champion Becky Sauerbrunn, adidas have created the Adidas Ace and X football boots. “We’re nothing like men,” protests Sauerbrunn in the promotional footage for the boots, “we don’t play like them, don’t move like them, don’t flop like them.”

“Today, thanks to adidas’ constant drive to innovate and empower women, we finally have access to the first ever cleat for female players.”

During the design process, the team discovered that women’s feet were typically narrower and have a lower in-step than their male counterparts. This called for adidas to completely pull apart and redesign the football boot from scratch instead of typically splashing men’s boots with colour. “In soccer, female athletes across the world wear shoes that are not meant for us, our feet, or our game,” added Sauerbrunn. “Today, thanks to adidas’ constant drive to innovate and empower women, we finally have access to the first ever cleat for female players.”

Sport and fitness in major cities like London, Paris and Tokyo are often hard to break into. Gyms can be intimidating and it can sometimes take being part of a team to try something new. As a response to this, pop up studio ‘152 Brick Lane’ has a residency in the heart of east London in amongst the city’s most talented creatives. The first of its kind, the small studio space offers free classes ranging from yoga and meditation, to circuit training and HIIT. As well as free classes, the studio also offers the chance to meet some of the city’s most influential women in the fitness industry.

The space doubles up as a testing ground for the PureBoostX, a running shoe designed again specifically for females. Providing an access point for serial fitness bloggers and enthusiasts to meet and network, the adidas word is spreading through the brands use of social media. “I would never have known about this if it wasn’t for girls like Zanna (Van Dijk) and Adrienne (Herbert) posting on Instagram,” said Kate Skip, a self confessed fitness lover who attended Adrienne’s Dance HIIT one Wednesday morning.

Adidas approached siblings Maddy and Alex Weaver – also known as Soul Sisters – to help open the studio just a few streets away from their own personal training space. “They wanted people that knew the area, knew what they were doing and able to bring in the right crowd,” explains Alex, “although I’m a personal trainer, my background is in classes because that used to be what I could afford. I think classes are a great way to get fit and have some fun: it’s cheaper, more affordable, great for socialising.”

The studio enhances the creativity that adidas are endorsing by creating an all female community of like minded individuals that want to have fun and keep fit. “We get a lot of girls who are students from abroad where their family aren’t here, they don’t have a massive circle of friends,” says Alex, “we’ve created a really nice space where people can just come and hang out.”

On the adidas website, there’s a strong emphasis on teamwork and the studio brings the brand’s core principles together under one roof. Every week the studio has a new class timetable which is sent out via adidas’ chatbot on Facebook messenger. The immediate responses, alerts and clear cut information via social media furthers the brands digital integration. What’s more, social gatherings of local female-run businesses aim to inspire and connect Londoners at events hosted by the studio on Thursdays.

Although the pop up studio is only supposed to stay until October, the adidas initiative is set to be in motion for the next three years. With women dominating the social media scene according to Pew Internet, adidas is not only ‘Creating the New’, it is creating the new ‘here to stay’.


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