Adidas Breaks the Mold: In a bold move to redefine its brand presence, Adidas, under the leadership of CEO Bjorn Gulden, is shifting its focus to smaller Olympic disciplines like breaking, climbing, skateboarding, and BMX. This strategic pivot comes in the aftermath of a highly publicized fallout with artist Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, which led to the discontinuation of the lucrative Yeezy shoe line.
Gulden, who took the reins at Adidas at the beginning of 2023, is steering the company away from celebrity endorsements back to its sports-centric roots. The Olympics, a pivotal arena for sportswear giants, serves as a testing ground for Adidas to showcase its commitment to a more diverse range of sports. While the company still places emphasis on major Olympic sports like athletics, Gulden’s vision includes a broader portfolio, stretching design teams and generating ideas that can influence mainstream products.
One of the focal points in this strategy is the inclusion of breaking, a discipline rooted in hip-hop culture. Gulden sees breaking not only as a sport but as a cultural phenomenon with streetwear and lifestyle appeal. With the signing of prominent breakers like China’s Liu Qingyi, known as “B-Girl 671,” Adidas aims to tap into new audiences, particularly in key markets such as China, where breaking enjoys significant popularity.
However, Adidas faces stiff competition in these niche sports. Nike, as the official sponsor of breaking federations in the U.S., Japan, and Korea, is actively investing in this emerging discipline. Puma, too, has entered the arena by signing athletes like Chinese competitor Qi Xiangyu.
The Olympics in Paris 2024 will also feature climbing, skateboarding, and BMX freestyle, aligning with Adidas’ strategy to appeal to a younger demographic. While it’s challenging to quantify the direct impact of the Olympics on sportswear sales, the Games provide a platform for brands to showcase their performance products used by elite athletes.
Gulden acknowledges that Adidas’ presence in Paris might not be as expansive as desired due to the long-term nature of Olympics sponsorship contracts. Nevertheless, he emphasizes the importance of the Games in highlighting Adidas’ technological advancements across various sports.
This shift in strategy is crucial for Adidas, which aims to regain market share lost to competitors over the past four years. Adidas shares have surged over 50% this year, outpacing rivals like Nike and Puma. The Olympics, with its blend of mainstream and niche sports, presents a significant opportunity for Adidas to solidify its position and appeal to a broader consumer base.
As the global sportswear giant navigates this strategic reboot, all eyes will be on whether Gulden’s vision can translate into gold, both on the Olympic stage and in the fiercely competitive sportswear market.