Helen’s Travel Corner

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Adidas, Beijing and the Olympics

November 8th, 2008 · 2 Comments

This past Wednesday, I presented with two other Emerson Integrated Marketing Communication graduate students on marketing and China.  Being a broad subject, and we’re far from experts, we focused on what we were most exposed to as Olympic volunteers and that was the Olympic sponsors.  I thought I’d share with you my portion of the presentation on Adidas.  Not only is it now part of the fabric of Beijing’s architecture gems, but also in China to stay.  Read on to learn about the brand and what I saw while in Beijing during the Olympics.

My presentation:

I want to shift gears a little bit and just focus on one of the main sponsors of the Olympics, Adidas. Both Adidas and Nike used the Olympics as a battlefield to gain a bigger slice out of the Chinese market. The evidence was plastered all over the capital city with Nike and Adidas campaigns and even store locations across from each other. The marketing nerd inside me soaked it all in with amused curiosity.

I want to give you a glimpse at Adidas’s overall strategy and then delve into my personal interaction with the brand in Beijing. Adidas poured the bulk of its money into sponsoring the Olympics in its entirety but did also sponsor several national Olympic associations and some individual athletes. Nike’s strategy put its money towards star athletes like Kobe Bryant and the famous Chinese hurdler who walked off the track injured, Liu Xiang. Unlike most American advertising that focuses on individuals, Adidas played into the collective aspect of the Chinese culture.

Here’s a commercial that aired throughout the Olympics on CCTV that you probably haven’t seen. You’ll see how it caters to the Chinese consumer.


The campaign, titled “Together in 2008, Impossible is Nothing,” does a fantastic job to invoke nationalism and capitalize on the general sentiment that pulsated throughout the city this past summer– that the Chinese couldn’t be more proud to host the Olympics and support their athletes.

The print ads shown here, won China’s first ever Cannes Lions ad award for breakthrough marketing. The copy translates on the diving ad to “Hu Jia [the athlete pictured] plus 1.3 billion Chinese, impossible is nothing.” The ads capture the entire nation supporting their athletes and the Olympics beautifully.

My personal brand interaction with Adidas was one of discovery and awe. These print ads showed up everywhere from the subway station walls to billboards adorning the city. Other elements of Adidas played its own role as part of my summer narrative. Every time I volunteered at the Main baseball field or at the Bird’s Nest during the Paralympics, I was dressed head to toe in adidas attire along with 100,000 other volunteers, including Jackie Chan. Even the pronunciation of the brand entered conversation on several occasions as a topic of international differences. I still prefer “adidas” to the phonetically pronounced “odd-e-dos” that the rest of the world uses.

Adidas spared no money as a sponsor.  The sportswear company spent $100 million dollars on the rights to use the Olympic rings. But it also invested in its largest flagship store in the world to leave a more permanent impact in the capital city. This store, a staple landmark to our frequent visits to the entertainment district of Beijing, sparked intrigue and multiple photo shoots. The meteor looking structure is a shopping heaven of athletic attire. It’s home is at The Village in Sanlitun, a booming shopping, dining and nightlife spot, and a place we found that every taxi driver understood despite how bad we butchered its name.

With over 3,000 feet of retail space, one cannot be but impressed upon discovering everything beyond the clothes the store offers. There was an entire room dedicated for their line “Made for Beijing.” These shoes were created specifically for Olympic sports and were housed in glass displays. Projected images served as wallpaper and holographic images of shoes hung mid-air in the center of the room.

The store also boasts all of the company’s concept lines, customizable shoes and shirts, interactive displays, tests of balance, athletic consultants, a smoothie café and a half-basketball court on the roof!

A less permanent adidas installation was found in the center of The Village shopping area. Beijing truly struck me as a marketer’s playground where limits don’t exist. In the center courtyard, shoppers could clock their take-off times from track starting blocks, test their targeting skills by kicking soccer balls or add to a wall of goals reinforcing the notion “impossible is nothing.” One of the pictures here shows a history hallway where upon touching the images, they stopped moving and were enlarged. I was captivated by the advanced technology. Inside the room, Olympic fans could watch whatever event was being shown on the big screen, if the atmosphere of the marketing structure and its activities weren’t enough.

I was only one customer—and fan—of Adidas in a very enormous and complex country. Adidas generates more than $800 million dollars from China with over 4,000 retail locations. It is the second largest market for Adidas after the United States. By 2010, it is projected to have over 6,000 retail locations and surpass $1.58 billion dollars in profits in China, especially as the idea and organization of sport grows in the country. As for me, I’m glad I got to witness the international brand’s efforts first-hand. While I’m Kobe’s newest fan, my brand loyalty was strengthened more with the company behind the 3 stripes rather the one behind the swoosh. Only time will tell what brand the Chinese consumer will side with.

Tags: Beijing · Olympics

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lifecruiser // Nov 8, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Oh, I loved those “Together in 2008, Impossible is Nothing,” pictures! Amazing!

  • 2 John Weiss // Nov 11, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Adidas and Nike are OK, but WAY too expensive… Did New Balance — maybe the last shoe maker to actually make shoes in the USA — appear over there?

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