adidas playing it right

By Antara Ghosal , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | April 26, 2010
With a range of sports events scheduled for 2010, the retail sportswear brand is all set to cash in on the opportunity

Without any exaggeration, the sports calendar for 2010 is chock full - Hockey World Cup, Indian Premier League Season 3, T20 World Cup, FIFA World Cup, T20 Champions League, Commonwealth Games, Cricket World Cup in South Asia - the list goes on. With such a bumper crop of mega sporting events the world over, premium sportswear brand, adidas is cashing in on the opportunity. The brand is all set with well-defined plans and strategies for the season.

& #BANNER1 & #adidas kicked off its marketing blitz with the 'pure cricket' campaign. The campaign, the biggest and most expensive ever from adidas India, focuses on the core of sport-athletes, and the attitude and intensity they bring to the game. The campaign features budding young Indian cricketers, Sandeep Sharma, Gaurav Jathar and Sahil Kukreja, and how they triumph over daily dilemmas and ordeals on the cricket field with their 'Impossible is Nothing' attitude. The ad has been shot entirely in black-and-white to bring out the message in an unambiguous manner.

"Cricket is the key sport in India, and as part of champagne year (as we call this year internally), we will see five big cricket tournaments happening in this 14 months' time. What better way could we have leveraged the situation, other than coming up with a hardcore cricket campaign?" explains Tushar Goculdas, director - marketing & sales, adidas India.

"adidas has used cricket in its communication since 1998. We have explored interesting creative concepts around cricket ever since. However, last year was a miss, because of IPL happening abroad. But this year, with everything in place and maximum sporting events lined up, we found it the most suitable time to come out with the campaign," he adds.

Next in the queue is a global campaign on football, which will break around the FIFA World Cup. The strategy and approach for this campaign would be different from the present one; however, the size of the campaign would be more or less similar.

"Globally, football is our most important sport; and FIFA, the most important sporting milestone. India is definitely going to witness lot of activity during the FIFA World Cup," Goculdas shares.

After the FIFA World Cup, the focus will be on the Commonwealth Games. Although the brand hasn't frozen its plans for the Games, it has chalked out a rough strategy. "We have a two- pronged approach in all sporting events. We either have sports people on field to sport our brand, or leverage them in the communication or ads. In Commonwealth Games, the focus will be on athletes on the field, who will sport logos and symbols on their apparel and footwear. In addition, there will be several external communications around it," says Goculdas.

Apart from cricket and football, the brand is also investing in tennis and basketball. In tennis, the brand has associated itself with Sania Mirza and Yuki Bhambri, and has also conducted a number of grassroots level programmes with upcoming junior players. In basketball, adidas is closely working with NBA.

adidas' core TG includes youngsters in the age group of 14-19 years, who are engaged in sporting and fitness activities. Its peripheral secondary TG is the older age groups, who may not be actively into sports, but are passionate about it and indulge themselves by buying sportswear. The brand reaches out to them through its integrated marketing approach.

addidas is looking at a mix of brand building, brand impact and sharp targeting of consumer base. In terms of media mix, TV, digital and BTL activities around adidas retail stores will be given priority.

"Our prime focus is on mass media, especially TV, which reaches a larger and wider base of consumers. Digital initiative is second in our list. We spend a lot of time, effort and money here. We have a dedicated cricket website, as well as a football Facebook page sharply targeted at the more passionate sports lovers who are also fans of adidas. Our CRM programe, adiclub, is a hub for a large number of adidas consumers. Furthermore, through our 600 plus stores across 170 towns, we continue reaching out to our consumers in person," Goculdas explains.

Although Goculdas declined to divulge the brand's marketing budget for this fiscal, he did share that the marketing spends this year are significantly higher than last year. "In the first quarter itself, we have spent a large sum with the cricket campaign, the IPL campaign which ran only in print and retail, launching a new product, 'my coach', and a digital campaign around it," he states.

When it comes to marketing strategies, the perception is that adidas is not as aggressive as its global counterparts. "The brand is a late starter in terms of marketing initiatives, but is fast catching up. However, I feel its range or array, which is not as competitive as its peers, and its association with lesser number of sports stars has reduced its position to No. 3. Better media visibility and association with aspirational sports, such as F1 or baseball, may prove beneficial for the brand," opines Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults.

Indranil Das Blah, vice-president, KWAN Entertainment, has a completely different take on the marketing strategy of the brand. "adidas is more subtle in its approach. It has always focused on a quality over quantity strategy. It may not associate itself with too many celebrities, may not have as big a marketing budget as its competitors; it may not go berserk over properties like IPL, but it will come out with innovative, path breaking deals, such as getting Tendulkar to do away with his MRF bat for an adidas one. Not to mention, the quality of its products is just unquestionable. All these factors happen to work for the brand," he explains.

For the record, the retail sportswear industry in India is small, but growing rapidly. In the last couple of years, it has seen growth of 18-20 per cent per year. The rapid growth is primarily due to consumers adopting sportswear to a larger extent and marketers spreading their retail footprint to more cities and towns. Apart from adidas, the major players in the segment include Nike, Reebok (now acquired by adidas) and Puma.