Superbrands case studies: Adidas

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume V', March 2003. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

Case study provided by Superbrands.


The sports clothing and footwear market has grown significantly over recent decades, with a marked increase in products being worn beyond the traditional sporting environments. An effect of this increased popularity is that sports companies have become much more aware of the image and perception of their brand and products, as well as their on-field performance.

As one of the biggest sporting occasions in the world, the 2002 World Cup attracted the attention of each of the major global sports brands. However, only Adidas can lay claim to a heritage in the tournament stretching back more than 40 years. In 2002, the event generated such interest that it pushed the growth of the sports industry to new levels.

For Adidas, 2002 also witnessed a fundamental shift from the traditional footwear and apparel structure used by most sporting goods companies to a new, three-way approach which enables Adidas to address the needs of its consumers in a very focused way. The Adidas brand is segmented into three divisions: Adidas Sport Performance (products developed for the sports performance market), Adidas Sport Heritage (Adidas Originals products) and Adidas Sport Style. Both the Sport Performance and the Sport Heritage business already show strong results, and Adidas is hoping for the same success from Adidas Sport Style since its introduction in 2003. Medium to long term, the Adidas Sport Style division should account for as much as 5% of total Adidas brand sales. Sales in the Sport Performance division should represent at least 65-70% of Adidas brand sales while the Sport Heritage division will have a share of 25-30%.


Despite continued competition across all categories, ongoing success in football is down to the company's passion for frequently making and marketing technically superior products. Adidas believes that its leadership in football, combined with its new structure, will result in significant advances in market share across all categories.

Adidas continues to focus on, and believe in, a performance philosophy. In practice, this means supporting the best athletes, teams and competitions across the globe. With this in mind Adidas has cultivated and extended partnerships with the likes of David Beckham (football), Zinedine Zidane (football), Sergio Garcia (golf), Maurice Green (athletics), The New Zealand All Blacks (rugby), Real Madrid (football) and the former World and reigning European football champions -- France. The brand also has a long and rich association with the Olympic movement. It is extremely proud of the fact that it supports 26 of the 28 Olympic disciplines, something no other brand has achieved. Indeed, 2002 has seen the continued development of new technologies that will be used in Athens in 2004.

In the marketing of its products, Adidas has once again led the industry with award winning advertising and public relations campaigns in support of its FIFA World Cup sponsorship and its technology launches for a3 and ClimaCool.

As well as earning Superbrand status again in 2002, Adidas was voted as being a Cool BrandLeader in 2001 by the Superbrands Cool Council the cool factor now being key to brands, particularly those operating in the youth market.


Adi Dassler, a shoemaker from the village of Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, created the very first Adidas sports shoe in 1920. From humble beginnings the Adidas corporation has expanded into a global company synonymous with world sport. Many of the fundamental principles upon which the first shoes were built, remain firmly rooted in the company philosophy of today.

Dassler was an athlete as well as a shoemaker and applied his knowledge and skills to producing products for athletes that helped improve performance at the highest level.

Dassler's efforts in the service of sport earned him more than 700 patents and other industrial property rights, many of them for revolutionary new products.

The company was, and remains today, committed to reacting to athletes requirements and using their experiences to develop ever better performance footwear and clothing.

The phrase listen, test, modify which was first used by Dassler himself, remains the key to the companys research and development operation. Technical innovations over the years include the worlds first football boot with screw-in studs, spiked track and field shoes and the present day development of ClimaCool, a shoe that allows ventilation of the feet. Since Adidas equipped the first athletes at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928, over 800 world records and medals have been won by athletes using Adidas footwear and apparel at Olympic Games and World Championships.


Since the introduction of Dassler's first sports shoe in the 1920s, the Adidas brand has expanded to such an extent that products are now available for almost every sport.

Adidas designs both its apparel and footwear ranges with athletes needs today in mind. Design concepts begin with the athlete and as a result, top competitors past and present, confirm that Adidas equipment always takes into account the latest developments in modern technology. For example, in preparation for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Adidas put its apparel and footwear through eighteen months of athlete and laboratory testing to ensure the best possible performance under extremes of heat and humidity.

Looking forward to the Olympic Games in 2004, Adidas is again involved in a lengthy development process. With Olympic records broken by hundredths of a second, Adidas is determined to develop a new range of clothing and footwear that will give their athletes the necessary edge to challenge the boundaries of sporting achievement.

Recent developments

2002 was a hugely significant year for Adidas. Firstly, the World Cup in Japan and Korea was the stage for Adidas to launch revolutionary clothing, ball and boot technologies that would help their teams and players perform to the very best of their ability. The Predator Mania is a re-engineered football boot that provides more swerve, increased accuracy, greater ball control and improved power transfer that results in greater comfort. It proved to be a big success with consumers and players alike. In the France 98 tournament, 55 players chose to wear the latest Predator football boot. In Japan and Korea that number almost tripled, with 155 players wearing Predator Mania as their boot of choice.

In addition, Adidas revealed the Adidas Fevernova as the official match ball of the FIFA World Cup. Launched as the most accurate and fastest ball Adidas has ever produced, the Fevernova also proved a big hit with consumers as record global sales made it Adidas most successful ball ever. Using a revolutionary syntactic foam layering system, the ball returns energy in equal measures in all parts of the ball, making its flight more accurate and predictable than ever.

Adidas also launched its team clothing range, Dynamic Layering Concept (DLC). It has been developed to provide physiological support to football players from head to toe, with each individual garment scientifically designed to provide the best possible support. DLC is ultra-lightweight and provides moisture management and features graduated muscle compression. Scientific evidence shows that DLC can improve a footballers physiological performance. In the World Cup, nine teams wore DLC clothing including Argentina, France, Germany and Japan.

Sports Performance is the heart of the brand. Formally known as Forever Sport, this division features products developed for the performance sports market but has design appeal, encouraging consumers to wear the products both on and off the court or playing field. 2002 saw the launch of ClimaCool and a3 running shoes. Both were developed within the Adidas innovation team. The aim for ClimaCool was to develop a functional shoe that featured a ventilation system. Tests proved that ClimaCool kept feet 20% cooler and drier than conventional footwear. a3 (pronounced a-cubed) is the culmination of five years development and is the most advanced training shoe technology that Adidas has ever produced. The a3 concept is simple. Whereas most trainers offer just one heel technology, a3 combines three which cushion, guide and drive the foot forward giving runners, as Adidas scientists would say, the perfect footstrike. Both trainers have enjoyed very successful debut years in the marketplace.

The Sports Heritage division contains products that were once functional, now fashionable. In the 1970s and 1980s they were chosen by top athletes around the world as the performance product of choice. The range remains the same but through Adidas Sports Heritage will be re-invented for the fashion arena using the authentic heritage of the Adidas brand in sport performance.

Design and functionality are already strong aspects in the two existing Adidas divisions and will be continued with an even stronger focus in the newly introduced Sport Style division designed by Yohji Yamamoto.


Adidas continues to acknowledge communications pivotal role in the ongoing success of the brand. The brand now has a wholly integrated approach to all its marketing activity. The most significant of Adidas publicity activities is the high profile brand advertising. Recently, a number of key symbols and teams have featured in media campaigns targeted at both the sports and wider youth audiences. Adidas is committed to incorporating new and developing media into the mix, a strategy that has seen everything from utilising the worlds biggest advertising hoarding in Birmingham during the World Cup, to communicating the brands target audience via the internet and email.

Continuing sponsorship and support of some of the worlds top athletes and teams has also helped Adidas successfully position itself as the brand of choice in sport.

Underpinning all of this high level activity, are extensive grassroots sports programmes where Adidas, along with some of the nations best coaches, help athletes of all ages get the most they can from their sport. Recently Adidas took this one stage further with the launch of Adidas Team Football ‹ a schools initiative designed by teachers to help make learning more fun for children. It does this by encouraging and measuring their teamwork and fair play in a new and exciting way through science, literacy, numeracy and citizenship. The scheme is linked to the National Curriculum at Key Stages one and two. With David Beckham as the ambassador and support from the English Schools Football Association, The Schools Consortium and Sportsmatch, the scheme is being taken up by thousands of school children aged eight to ten.

Brand values

Adidas brand positioning is clear and distinct. Adidas has a genuine and far-reaching respect for sport and this is manifested in the companys devotion to making the best possible performance products for athletes.

The brand mission is quite simply to become the leading sports brand in the world. It aims to do this by becoming the best performing brand in all sporting goods categories. To achieve this, the brand continues to produce the highest quality performance products possible at marketplace prices. Furthermore, products will continue to be designed and developed to enhance the performance of all who participate in sport, irrespective of their age, gender or ability.

Things you didn't know

  • Adi Dassler was a passionate athlete and a shoemaker. So one day he decided to combine both his passions and he set up a small shoemaking operation at the back of a local laundry.

  • The first workshop machine he installed was an ingenious man-powered trimmer made out of a bicycle and some left over wood.

  • American athlete Jesse Owen won four gold medals in a pair of Dassler track spikes during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

  • Adi Dasslers brother, Rudolf, set up Puma in direct competition to Adidas.

  • Adi Dassler developed the first ever screw-in stud for football boots.

  • At the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and Korea, Adidas supplied 3,744 products to referees and assistants, 31,488 products to player escorts, ball boys and children involved in the tournament. 32,350 products to the ten Adidas teams in the competition and 370,000 products to stewards and volunteers.

  • David Beckham has worn more than 250 pairs of Adidas Predators since 1996 and has kept every single pair since the birth of his first child Brooklyn.

    © 2003 Superbrands Ltd