By Barry Janoff
February 14, 2013: This has been a busy week for adidas: The NBA All-Star Weekend is upcoming in Houston, the company is testing new NBA short-sleeve jerseys with the Golden State Warriors and adidas is trying to turn the running and training world upside down with the unveiling of Energy Boost running shoes.
Part of a new segment called Energy Running, the shoe features Boost, described by adidas as a "revolutionary cushioning technology which provides the highest energy return in the running industry." According to adidas, Boost "combines performance benefits that have been contradictory in the past: soft cushioning and responsiveness work together at last to give runners a running experience unlike any other."
Boost Energy hits retail later this month (MSRP $150) and will be supported by a multi-media campaign, including traditional and online, with a heavy dose of social media and experiential marketing. Marketing will convey the themes, "All in for the Revolution of Running" and "Boost your Run."
The company plans to expand the technology to its basketball, soccer and other key lines in 2013-14.
Adidas also said it plans to follow up Boost Energy with another innovation for running and training — SpringBlade — which will be a shoe line featuring a series of rubber tentacle-like springs that run along the sole of the shoe. Adidas said this technology would hit retail in August.
The Boost Energy shoes and their technology were unveiled this week at an invitation-only event at Javits Center in New York that was attended by company executives, 2012 Olympic 100 meter silver medal winner Yohan Blake and long-distance and running legend Haile Gebrselassie.
At the event, Erich Stamminger, adidas group president of brands, set the tone when he declared, "We are here to open a new chapter in adidas innovation. You will not leave this presentation without being impressed."
After the presentation, NYSportsJournalism spoke with Stamminger about the new shoe and the company's global sports activations, which include official partner status with the NBA, Major League Soccer and FIFA; Olympic national teams and athletes; and such stars as Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard.
NYSportsJournalism.com: What is the state of adidas in 2013?
Erich Stamminger: We are at a super high. We have had three consecutive years of growth in the U.S. market place. We are staying true to the adidas values of bringing innovation to the market, to having athletes perform better. What we are doing now, launching Boost and also looking ahead to SpringBlades, working with the Golden State Warriors to bring innovation to basketball and working with the NBA as a strong partner, all are good examples of what we are doing now and how we are looking to the future.
NYSJ: What response have you gotten from consumers regarding your products and the marketing support behind these products?
ES: Innovation and adidas belong together. Innovation is in our DNA. And I believe that consumers and athletes are responding very well to what we are and how we are presenting our products. Our focus over the past couple of years has been to be younger and more relevant. And we are seeing the benefits of that. Kids today are looking at our brand in the right light, both on the field of play and also in the hallways of their schools. We have two ways to talk to consumers: performance and originals. We are seeing success in both areas.
NYSJ: Although each Olympic Games is unique, what did you learn from the 2012 Summer Games in London that you will be taking forward to upcoming Olympics in working with national teams and individual athletes?
ES: London was unique. But we are working with athletes all the time. Not just at the Olympic level. NCAA. FIFA. NBA. Helping them to get to the next level through our product innovations. The Olympics is the showcase, every two years and every four years for the Summer Games. That is where you can really showcase your innovations. But for adidas, that is going on every day. We are woking with athletes at every level, helping them to get better.
NYSJ: Adidas is able to put its 'three-stripe' logo on NBA uniforms, and you see it on jerseys in soccer and other teams in which you are officially aligned. But what do you see in the future as far as the NBA, MLB and other sports leagues putting brand names and logos on their uniforms and jerseys, as they do in MLS and soccer teams around the world?
ES: You have it in MLS and the WNBA. I think it will come in other leagues and sports in the U.S., as well. It's a matter of timing. The financial upside is there [for teams and leagues] to do it. Sports fans in the U.S. might not be used to it, certainly not as much as fans of the English Premier League and other sports on an international level are used to seeing it. Those teams and leagues know the advantage of such deals, and fans are able to see the benefits of it. So you will see it more in the U.S.
NYSJ: How would your describe your relationship with the NBA?
ES: We are very happy with our partnership with the NBA. It's been very beneficial for the league and for adidas. During the All-Star Weekend, we get to showcase new uniforms and new basketball shoes, so it is a great time for us. I will be in Houston, as will other adidas executives, and it is a very good time for us to not only talk business but relax and have fun talking about adidas.
NYSJ: Adidas and the NBA are experimenting with new jerseys for the Golden State Warriors. Where do you see that going?
ES: I believe that fans and players will like it. It is not just for style, but also for for better performance for the athletes. It is 26% lighter than the current uniforms and it uses the adidas ClimaCool technology, which helps keep the players comfortable and dry during games. And it has another benefit in that it is made with 60% recycled materials. The look is not that much different from players who wear T-shirts under their jerseys. But it also has the benefit of fitted sleeves, so, unlike wearing a T-shirt, the sleeve does hot get in the way of shots.
NYSJ: Have you received any player or consumer feedback yet?
ES: We just introduced it, and the Warriors' players won't wear them in a game until after the All-Star Game and then again in two games next month. We are an official [retail] partner with the Warriors, which is one of the important reasons we are working with them to help introduce this innovation. The players who have tested it said they like it, they want to wear it during games.
NYSJ: Is the plan to go league-wide with these new jerseys?
ES: That would be the ultimate goal. We see this as being something that all players and consumers will have a positive response to and that has a good opportunity to go to other teams. When you look at basketball, there have been several very important innovations that may at first have seemed radical. Shorts are now longer. Shoes are lighter. For a long time all basketball shoes looked the same. Now players can have a different style for every game. So in the future, when other teams are wearing this new jersey, you could look back and not even remember when players were not wearing them.
NYSJ: Derrick Rose is a very visible adidas spokesman, but he has been sidelined while rehabilitating from knee surgery and may miss the entire 2012-13 NBA season. Will he continue to be an important person for the company moving forward?
ES: Most certainly. We are continuing to release new products with Derrick Rose. But, most important, we are supporting his efforts to get back on the court in the way he feels is best for his health and his future. Do we want to see him back on the court with the Chicago Bulls? Yes. But not until he feels his rehabilitation is 100% complete. For us, it is about looking forward and continuing to work with him, but putting all our energies into supporting his return to being healthy.