Adidas, the renowned global sportswear giant, is strategically shifting gears to establish a strong brand presence in smaller and niche sports events as it gears up for the upcoming Paris Olympics. This move is part of CEO Bjorn Gulden’s plan to rebrand the company following the end of its highly profitable Yeezy shoe line and a fallout with artist Kanye West. The Olympics serve as a vital platform for Adidas and its competitors to sponsor athletes, sports federations, national teams, and engage in event marketing.

Gulden’s game plan entails refocusing on sports rather than relying heavily on celebrity endorsements. The ultimate test for this strategy will be at the Paris 2024 Olympics, where Gulden aims to position Adidas as a frontrunner in smaller and lesser-known sports. He believes that solely focusing on mainstream sports is limiting and too easy. Gulden wants Adidas to have a strong presence in niche disciplines, which will not only challenge the design teams but also generate ideas for more mainstream products like running shoes.

One such sport that offers Adidas an opportunity to tap into the streetwear and lifestyle markets is breaking, which has its origins in hip-hop culture. Adidas recently signed China’s Liu Qingyi, also known as “B-Girl 671,” the top-ranked female breaker in the world. However, competition in this space is intense, with Nike as the official sponsor of the U.S., Japanese, and Korean breaking federations, and Puma also making its mark by signing Chinese athlete Qi Xiangyu.

In addition to breaking, climbing, skateboarding, and BMX freestyle will also be featured in the Paris Olympics in an effort to attract younger audiences to the Games. While it is challenging to quantify the direct impact of the Olympics on sportswear sales, the Games help build a reputation for the “performance” products endorsed by elite-level athletes. Adidas has strategically signed athletes and sports organizations in these sports, such as BMX athlete Kieran Reilly, the Brazilian Skateboarding Federation, and the Polish Olympic Committee. However, given the long-term nature of Olympics sponsorship contracts, Adidas may not have as extensive a presence in Paris as desired.

The Olympics provide an excellent opportunity for sportswear brands to showcase their technological advancements across various sports, reinforcing their status as true sports brands instead of just lifestyle brands. Puma, for instance, has primarily focused on athletics and has made significant investments as the official sponsor of the Jamaica Olympic Association. The brand has recently signed 35 new athletes across track and field disciplines. Experts emphasize the importance for brands like Adidas and Puma to stay focused on sports to retain their customer base.

Despite Adidas being approximately three times larger than Puma in terms of sales, the company has the means to invest more in athletes and sports at the Olympics. On the other hand, Nike, being a much larger company, generally has a higher spending capacity than both Adidas and Puma. Shareholders of Adidas have hope that CEO Bjorn Gulden’s revamped strategy can deliver remarkable market share growth and profitability. The pursuit of gaining an edge in new sports at the Olympics will be a crucial factor in Adidas’s comeback.

As promised, here are two relevant links for additional information:
1. Adidas’s approach to the Paris 2024 Olympics
2. Adidas’s shift towards sports endorsements over celebrity culture