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Web site: www.adidas.com
German sporting-goods company adidas-Salomon AG returned from near death in the mid-1990s with a new focus and global strategy. No longer content to allow competitors, especially the seemingly invincible Nike, to dominate the sporting-goods category, adidas launched a full-scale offensive designed to increase awareness of the brand, enhance its image, and elevate sales. The company moved production facilities to Asia to cut manufacturing costs, formed high-visibility alliances with sports organizations and athletes (including a sponsorship of the New York Yankees baseball team beginning in 1997), purchased the French company Salomon SA (a manufacturer of golf, ski, and bike equipment) in 1997, and pumped additional funds into its modest marketing budget. Hoping to increase the sales of its running accessories in the United States, adidas America, Inc., the U.S. headquarters for adidas, released a provocative campaign titled "Runners. Yeah, We're Different."
The San Francisco office of advertising agency Leagas Delaney released the branding campaign with an estimated $1 million. To prove that the company understood the sport of running, the "Runners. Yeah, We're Different" campaign, which began in 1998, targeted the serious runner, a relatively small and anonymous audience. With full-page and two-page ads in specialty magazines such as Runner's World and Running Times and with some executions in the general-interest Sports Illustrated, the series of print ads celebrated the rather unusual but relatively common habits of dedicated runners, such as smearing Vaseline on the inner thighs and under the arms to prevent chafing. Sean Ehringer, Leagas Delaney's creative director, explained, "[adidas] wanted to do a brand focus campaign that gave them some running credentials, and the way we decided to do that was to let runners know that we understand them … Runners have their own kind of weird way of doing things, so there's a lot of things to talk about there." The campaign ended in 2000.
According to the ad-industry publication Campaign, "Runners. Yeah, We're Different" was the third most awarded series of print ads in the world for 2000. It helped adidas's brand awareness in the United States reach record highs and was eventually expanded globally.
Adolf Dassler, known as Adi, began making athletic shoes in 1920 in Germany. His shoes made their first appearance in the Olympics in 1928, and in 1936 Jesse Owens won four Olympic gold medals running in Dassler's track shoes. It was not until 1948 that Dassler founded the adidas company. The company was immensely successful, flourishing through the 1960s
and 1970s. At the 1972 Olympic Games, noted Advertising Age, more than 80 percent of the gold-medal winners sported adidas shoes, and all of the Olympic officials were outfitted in uniforms designed by adidas. During that decade adidas gear could be found on most professional soccer players and on about 75 percent of professional basketball players. By 1978, the year of Dassler's death, the adidas brand enjoyed a global recognition rate of about 95 percent.
Although it took years for adidas to build a reputation, the company's commanding grip of the athletic-goods market deteriorated quickly. Not only did adidas miss some important athletic trends, such as the jogging craze of the late 1970s, but it also suffered from management problems. Dassler's son Horst took control of the company in 1985, but he died just two years later, and adidas was sold in 1989 to French businessman Bernard Tapie, who soon declared bankruptcy during the course of a political scandal. By the time creditors approached French...