Ananya Pathak

“Promoting sports'women' and sustainability are our focus points”

We spoke to Sharad Singla, brand director, adidas India, on the sidelines of I-League jersey launch event held in New Delhi.

On Tuesday, at an event held in New Delhi, adidas and Jammu & Kashmir-based football club Real Kashmir FC launched the club’s 2019-2020 home jersey. adidas announced its partnership with Real Kashmir FC last season with an aim to bring about a positive change narrating an inspiring story of the ‘Snow Leopards’, as the club is popularly known. The new season jersey has the words, ‘Create. Believe. Inspire’ written at the back.

Left to right:  Sharad Singla (brand director), Manish Sapra (senior brand director), Kallum Higginbotham (player), Muhammad Hammad (player), Sandeep Chattoo (co-owner RKFC), David Robertson (coach)
Left to right: Sharad Singla (brand director), Manish Sapra (senior brand director), Kallum Higginbotham (player), Muhammad Hammad (player), Sandeep Chattoo (co-owner RKFC), David Robertson (coach)

Launched in India in 1998, the Germany-headquartered adidas targets 14-21 year olds. On the sidelines of the event, we caught up with Sharad Singla, brand director, adidas India. He tells us that the brand mainly targets creators — the ones who experiment with their clothes and style. The ones who are ready to challenge and follow their gut. He says, “Our perfect audience is a mindset. It's not any age.”

Sharad Singla, brand director, adidas India.
Sharad Singla, brand director, adidas India.

The 95-year-old brand designs and manufactures shoes, clothing and accessories for both men and women. Talking about the product sale in the male vs female vertical, Singla mentions that year-on-year the product sale of women's category is growing. “It still is relatively low but is growing at a rate that we did not think it would,” he divulges.

We asked him if this growth impacts the brand's marketing strategy? “As a sports brand we always tend to share and highlight stories of sports'men'. We have never actively celebrated women in the field. That is the only marketing strategy change that we needed and have made. This will be one of our focus areas in the years to come along with sustainability,” reveals Singla.Last year adidas India signed an endorsement deal with athlete Hima Das.

Last year adidas India singed athelete Hima Das for an endorsement deal.

“Promoting sports'women' and sustainability are our focus points”

Speaking of the Indian market, Singla shares, “Dominant business comes from metros, but that does not mean that you limit your marketing strategies to these geographical locations.” He, however, points out that it is not possible for a brand to ensure its offline presence in every geographical location. “Online presence has made that possible. The evolution of the digital market has made it easier for me, as a brand, to offer products to consumers in any geographical location,” he says.

He goes on to share that some customers are comfortable shopping online while there are others who want to get a feel of the product before they buy it. And that is where the offline channel plays an important part.

“It is very important to be present at locations where the consumer demand it and at locations where you believe you'll be able to give a holistic consumer experience. Today, consumers are not looking only at products, but at experiences. The experience a consumer gets in a store leads him to buy a product. And therefore it is important for a brand such as our's to be able to tell a story — a consistent story.”

We asked him what works better? A standalone store or a multi-brand store?

“The answer,” he says, “depends on the environment and trade zone where the store needs to be opened. It also depends on the consumer type.”

adidas Originals was launched in India in 2017. Until then, Singla believes, there wasn't a need for such a brand in India. “We felt that adidas in India was only limited to sports because the consumers hadn't evolved. There was always a need for it though. We were surprised by the kind of response Originals received. There were people who wanted to show their creativity and we gave them that opportunity,” he says.

The brand does not consider any other brand in the segment as a rival. Singla points out that India as a sports market is very small. He says that the players in the segment are just enablers — who can inspire people to take up sports but the choice of brand lies in the consumers hands.

In a country, such as India, where cricket is worshipped, what's the brand's sports priority list like? He says, “Cricket,” he agrees, “definitely is the heartbeat sports in India, however, there is always space for other sports. Over the past few years, sports brands have been able to develop an appetite for other sports as well. There is a big fan following for football. Running, too, has grown as a major sport. We try to support each and every sport, whether it’s football, running, cricket or training, we try and influence it.”

Shoes, in the world of sports brands, are believed to be the gateway into a consumer's wardrobe. We checked with Singla if this is true.

“As a brand guy and also as a non-brand guy, that is what I would like to believe. As a kid, I wanted to own a pair of adidas shoes. So in a way my relationship with the brand started with when I was a kid. Though the reasons might be different, this is true of the kids of today as well,” he says, adding a word of caution. “Today's kids have evolved. It is no longer limited to owning a brand but also about the stories. It also depends on the kind of personality one relates to and wants to present,” he signs off.