Adidas enlists H&K to expand market position

PORTLAND, OR: Adidas has chosen Hill & Knowlton as its North American AOR, to expand its outreach to consumers, and to position the brand as the market leader for athletic gear.

PORTLAND, OR: Adidas has chosen Hill & Knowlton as its North American AOR, to expand its outreach to consumers, and to position the brand as the market leader for athletic gear.

MaryLee Sachs, chairman of H&K USA, said the communications strategy would focus on six major divisions: soccer, running, basketball, US sports (baseball, NASCAR, and football), training, and the company's Originals clothing line.

"The reason Adidas is putting a greater emphasis on PR coming into 2008," Sachs said, "is they recognize the changing landscape of media and believe that PR can help further their overall business objectives."

"We want to be the leading sports brand," said Andrea Corso, a senior PR team member at Adidas. "We want to connect with consumers."

Adidas, widely known for its soccer equipment and apparel, is considered a product leader for the sport. The company plans to extend this market position to other athletics, Sachs noted.

"They have amazing awareness. It's about positioning them as leaders across all these sports," she said.

Tactics include developing relationships with retailers, traditional and new media outreach, and event marketing to reach its target market, which spans from weekend athletes to professional teams, Sachs said.

"[The target] varies by sport," she noted. "It's the younger demographic who are very active in sports. But it's the older demographic where there are parents and coaches involved. With sports like soccer, there will be an ethnic demographic involved because it is highly Hispanic. So, it's across the board."

Outreach efforts will target sports, lifestyle, consumer, and digital media. Though Adidas has already established an online presence through Facebook and MySpace, the company plans to use more viral tactics.

"[Adidas has] elevated digital within its own organization - in terms of its importance," Sachs said. "And we are looking at digital components that can help drive participational activities" across all divisions.

Mobile applications will be a larger component of its communications strategy. Last November the company engaged in a successful campaign in which consumers were sent voicemails from popular athletes, said Corso.

"That's a form of media that we've found is really interesting and compelling to consumers," she noted. "We're always looking at the best way to reach consumers where they are."

The communications strategy will also build upon the company's advertising campaign, which positions Adidas as a brand that inspires people to get involved in sports, and also enables them to participate by providing products and equipment, Corso explained.

In coming weeks, the company will participate in a series of efforts to give its brand additional visibility at sporting and social events. This week consumers are invited to its newly redesigned Originals store in New York. Visitors will be able to design athletic shoes, an effort to promote the company's partnership with Diesel for a new denim line.

Additionally, the brand has teamed with Sports Authority for an ongoing relationship with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Initiatives, centered on Earnhardt fan gear, which will launch during next month's NASCAR Daytona 500. Other plans include a partnership with Dick's Sporting Goods for baseball gear, participation in next month's NBA All-Star week in New Orleans, and leveraging the brand's long-term relationship with soccer star David Beckham and Major League Soccer.

Adidas selected H&K following a competitive pitch that included finalists, Ketchum and Bratskeir & Co. Sachs declined to state the contract amount, but said negotiations are still ongoing and the account would be "very significant" to the agency's North American division. H&K-USA has previously worked with Adidas on a project basis.

"I think they are going to be a great partner with our brand, to help us move the brand forward," said Adidas' Corso, adding that H&K will work with the company's in-house marketing team as an integrated group.

Sachs said H&K-USA will, on occasion, collaborate informally with the agency's UK division, which has worked for Adidas for nearly 15 years.

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