adidas: Three Divisional Media Strategy
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Holmes Report
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adidas: Three Divisional Media Strategy

As a result of WPR’s efforts, a total of more than 80 media placements were obtained throughout various media outlets, including coverage in all of the major wire services, national print publications and broadcast outlets.

Paul Holmes

In late August 2000, Warschawski Public Relations (WPR) was hired to help raise the image and corporate reputation of adidas – particularly in the United States, where the sporting goods manufacturer has fallen well behind Nike.  Crucial to adidas’ success over the next few years were its new top management team (including a soon-to-be new CEO), its revolutionary new three-divisional business structure, and its new product lines under the new business structure – none of which had been introduced to the U.S. media.  Due to disclosure and timing issues, all of these elements needed to be introduced to the media almost immediately after WPR began working with adidas.

In order to disseminate adidas’ news most effectively, WPR coordinated a media event at NYC's trendy Milk Studios.  Key to the success of the event was the portrayal of adidas’ new, more urban and fashion-oriented image. As a result of WPR’s efforts, a total of more than 80 media placements were obtained throughout various media outlets, including coverage in all of the major wire services, national print publications and broadcast outlets.  However, most important to the success of this campaign was obtaining top-level feature coverage in the four most key trade publications that covered adidas’ industry.  These publications are extremely important to the success of adidas in that they are the opinion shapers for adidas’ key audiences, notably retailers and industry analysts.  In the recent past adidas had received poor or no coverage from these trade publications.  

OBJECTIVES

In order to achieve success for adidas, WPR needed to accomplish the following objectives:

Secure attendance of four of the nine trade media journalists.

  • Introduce the soon-to-be new CEO of adidas and his new top management team to the U.S. media and secure coverage that highlighted them as the key new adidas players.   
  • Generate “buzz” about the three new divisions and their new product lines; showcase samples of the new product lines. 
  • Lay a foundation with trade media for a strong working relationship with adidas.  WPR wanted to introduce the new adidas leadership to key journalists to position the executives for future media activities in the U.S.

HURDLES TO OVERCOME TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS

adidas had very weak trade media relationships in the U.S. before we began working with them – surprisingly, nobody really “covered” adidas.

Limited amount of time – just six weeks – to prepare for this huge event.  Despite the event being seen as crucial to adidas’ future success, no strategy was in place before WPR started working with adidas.  

Since no strategy for the event was in place, no location was booked, no event planning (i.e. logistics) was completed, and no build-out on the presentation space had occurred.  Finding a suitable and available NYC location (high-end space that suggested urban fun and fashion) was complicated by the timing of the adidas event, which fell during “fashion month” in New York when designers unveil their new lines.

The event was expected to accomplish an unusually high number of disparate goals.

RESEARCH

In preparation for handling adidas’ PR work, WPR conducted the following preliminary research:

An extensive media analysis study (see attached under “Research”) to assess where adidas stood in relation to its major competitors in terms of type, quality, and quantity of media coverage generated.  This research was critical in allowing WPR to shape adidas’ new, more aggressive media outreach approach used for this media event.  It also was key in the shaping of adidas' new messages, which were unveiled at the event.

Logistical research -- We needed a location that was both funky and professional to reflect adidas’ new cutting-edge image.  Finding a facility that had multiple rooms to accommodate the following elements: reception area, presentation room, interview rooms, and rooms where adidas could display its new three product lines, was imperative to the success of this event.

Past industry news coverage research to find the appropriate media contacts to pitch for this event and future adidas PR activities.

STRATEGY

Recognizing that we were operating under a tight timeframe, and that our client had few U.S. media relationships or connections, WPR developed a comprehensive strategy for the event that would accomplish all of the objectives outlined above.  WPR took responsibility for the strategic planning of the event, writing the speeches of the top officials, ensuring attendance at the event, and obtaining positive media coverage for the event.  

We created an underlying theme for the event that connected adidas’ past to its future and demonstrated how this new strategy is the next great step for a historically great company.  Further, WPR ensured that all elements of the event blended sports, fashion and fun, underscoring adidas’ strategy of providing products that are functional and stylish both on and off the playing field.

EXECUTION

Since adidas had little media relations or connections in the U.S., WPR built its press list from scratch.  We researched trade media outlets for journalists who had reported on related topics in the past.  Two weeks before the event, we faxed personal invitations to each journalist, and conducted aggressive follow-up to ensure attendance at the event.  Journalists who could not attend the event were offered telephone interviews with top management the day of the event, as well as expedited press kits from the event.  A press release on adidas’ new three-divisional structure was disseminated via fax and PR Newswire the day of the event, with intensive WPR follow-up.   

To help build working relationships between media and top adidas management, and to enhance the media coverage, WPR worked hard to keep the event from being a typical “talking heads” event.  First, journalists were offered unprecedented access to the soon-to-be CEO and his new team, regardless of the media outlet’s size.  In addition to a lengthy Q&A session after the presentations, the adidas officials were available for sit-down interviews and photographs in private rooms.  Each interview room was designed around the adidas brand.  For example, one of the rooms had a ten-foot backdrop with basketball player, Kobe Bryant, wearing the new “Kobe shoe,” designed by adidas.  Journalists waiting to meet with executives were given a sneak peek at the new product lines under the new business structure.  adidas’ new global head of design provided guided tours of two rooms of prototypes of new products, giving journalists a unique opportunity to ask questions of the person responsible for the “look and feel” of the products.  

At WPR’s recommendation for enhancing the coverage received, adidas enlisted two of its medal winners recently back from the Olympic Games in Sydney – soccer star Kristine Lilly and swimmer Ed Moses – to pose for photographs at the event.  At the event, WPR provided journalists with a comprehensive media kit including:  the press release on the new business structure, descriptions of each new division, bios on the adidas executives and Olympic athletes, a CD with images of the new logo for each division, and information on adidas’ new Kobe Bryant shoe.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS

This strategy and execution proved to be an overwhelming success.  By creating an exciting, upbeat event for the media and securing a high level of subsequent coverage, WPR was able to achieve all four of its goals.   The following highlights the outstanding results WPR created in achieving the goals outlined:

Journalists from five of the nine key trade publications participated in the event.  All nine of the publications covered the news in-depth or in feature style articles.

The key new adidas executives were frequently quoted in the coverage received, successfully positioning them as the new source of information for adidas.  WPR arranged for a key U.S. trade publication for adidas, Sporting Goods Business, to publish a positive four-page profile on the new CEO of adidas-America.  The profile was promoted on the cover of the publication’s influential “State of the Industry” issue.

As a result of WPR’s work, stories ran in trade publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Sporting Goods Business, Footwear News, Footwear +, Apparel industry Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business, and DNR.  These articles created strong “buzz” within the industry for the new three divisional strategy and the new product lines under the new strategy.
WPR developed strong working relationships with trade media reporters for adidas as a result of our work with them for this event.  Today, reporters call WPR regularly for information about adidas and the sports apparel industry, resulting in additional coverage for adidas.

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