Adidas wants to supercharge its basketball business, and it starts at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
Business Insider is reporting that adidas has plans to make basketball cool again. adidas held the contract for the world’s premier basketball league for years. All it resulted in was missed opportunities in the WNBA, missed opportunities for All Star Weekend and no innovative ideas for the game while they had a chance to brand the NBA as an adidas league. Nike came in and immediately, love it or hate it, delivered a series of new jersey designs and upgrades including a Augmented Reality jersey connecting fans to the player’s music playlist, workouts and updates. adidas made Christmas jerseys that I skip over on NBA2K. I’m not being harsh. I’ve written countless articles here on what adidas has done right… in the last six months however, that hasn’t been the case; Adidas is missing more lately than hitting.
A few months ago the brand shifted gears towards sport and for me it was jarring. In all honesty I don’t think anyone else really paid attention to it. When marketing is done right, it’s subtle and integrated. The Creators shift was very noticeable. Where “Originators” grew organically and inspired people via song and art, this ‘Here to Create’ campaign felt… like a campaign. It’s not that adidas can’t play in the sport territory. The brand has such a rich history that they can’t help but create incredible stories and connect those stories to the history of the company… and that’s the problem they aren’t drawing on that rich history at all.
adidas wants to connect and grow basketball in North America, but they lost that moment when they failed to drive any interest in the WNBA and NBA.
My ultimate question is why now? Why after allowing the Nike machine to take over the sport you need to grow basketball, the NBA, why look at basketball as a growth opportunity? Could it be that Mark King realizes that adidas’ recent success was built on the back of fashion and fashion can’t be predicted and often shifts from quarter to quarter and season to season? Actually fashion can shift with one big song or photo shoot, and that’s the problem. The growth adidas has seen was never going to be sustainable through fashion.
That couldn’t be more evident than in this video I shot on 2/13/2018. (Turn the volume up, I was speaking very low.) While promo isn’t just an adidas issue, for a brand that was as high as it was at this time last year and throughout the year, adidas has now lost the front of store at Footaction and Foot Locker. Here at Finish Line they’ve been pushed back and the entire wall is on discount including the recently released EQT Cushion and Pharrell Tennis Hu, not to mention the EQT Support BOOST and UltraBOOST. I would have to guess that over 75% of the shoes in the store are on sale. Which moves me back to basketball and “Why now?”
The article above is about basketball sales overall and was written at the end of 2016. It’s basically a 2017 article and my predictions on basketball have been tempered and I’ve written articles explaining why basketball shoe sales will no longer garner the primary dollar from shoppers. In the article above I made this statement, “Basketball is going to make a comeback. It won’t be big, but Adidas is not prepared for the shift to happen. Will it affect them negatively? Probably not since running and retro will still be strong, but this is going to be an important thing to watch.”
Since I’ve written this post, adidas’ running shoes aren’t selling and neither are the classic Stan Smith and Superstar. I’ve written other articles updating my thoughts on performance footwear. Many of those thoughts have been about Nike, but you can insert adidas into the article and rewrite it just a little and it’s the same. The most important analysis that can be done here is to tell adidas that if they plan on grabbing the kids and players, it will have to happen at a grassroots level. The number of SKUs created for basketball should be limited and happen on a DTC level with relationships being formed with local coaches who aren’t “sponsored” travel teams. The shoes released should not be completely commercial or big releases. Release only limited model basketball drops to stores. Invest heavily in educating coaches and finding the local market to build brand awareness and loyalty. Don’t overpay for star athletes, and most important read this article because it tells you everything you need to know and if you have any questions contact this former player/coach/scout/and sneaker insider because there are fixes and dropping a bunch of rappers and performers in gear at an event at All Star Weekend won’t accomplish much at all. For a fraction of that cost you could get more kids in adidas than you have paying Louisville… yep I know that one hurts.