#adidas TERREX – Secrets of A Decade-long Partnership
It is rare in the PR agency world to establish a bond with a client that endures over 10 years – especially with a brand whose three stripes logo is recognized worldwide. CGPR is privileged and honored to mark a decade of partnership with adidas TERREX.
One might think that working with one of the world’s top athletic brands would be an easy task, but on the contrary – when adidas, through adidas Outdoor, made the decision to enter the fiercely competitive $887 billion US outdoor industry, this task was nothing short of Herculean.
In fact, in this case, the iconic three stripes clearly worked against us . No one saw the need for this international sporting brand to find a home in the U.S. outdoor community. No one wanted us – they already had Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Patagonia and The North Face, among others.
The “no” was loud and clear – whether it was 100 straight rejections from prospective retailers or having to work twice as hard to get a second look from media – it was still a “no.”
Yet, 10 years later, after much hard work that centered around a clear focus and maintaining a critical point of difference, today, our client is a respected brand in the U.S. outdoor community. adidas Outdoors has: garnered a loyal consumer following; built a passionate foundation in the climbing and endurance communities; earned the respect of large and specialty retailers; and lastly, can stand tall next to industry peers and CEOs in the role it continues to play in encouraging increased outdoor participation.
There is still a tremendous amount of work to do. Here’s what we’ve learned working in the trenches with the brand:
Choose a Brand Leader that is Completely Devoted to the Vision – Regardless of the Odds.
Greg Thomsen, adidas Outdoor’s managing director, was relentless in protecting the integrity of the brand despite the enormous roadblocks. No matter how many road mines were thrown his way, he never detoured from the original vison. Not once.
The Product Must be Hero.
adidas Outdoor used adidas’ decades of footwear expertise to design footwear for the next generation of outdoor consumers. These consumers were looking for styles that were lighter and faster – fitting their new lifestyle that was busier and over scheduled, The same rule of thumb was applied to apparel. We knew the product had to work and with retailer, athlete and consumer feedback, it continues to evolve.
Authenticity Comes First – Then mainstream.
By working in the field with climbers and endurance athletes to engage in their pursuits and to solicit product feedback, over time, adidas Outdoor established authenticity and was validated. We had to achieve this same validation with outdoor media.
We had to make sure the core outdoor media experienced the product first. It was critical that they knew the product worked and could tell that story. We continue to work on these relationships every day.
Quiet and Humble Wins the Battle.
Greg instilled the directive to be purposeful and humble, quietly building the right bridges. adidas Outdoor became the “go to” brand for the exploding climbing gym industry by partnering with over 200 climbing gyms and over 150 college outdoor clubs. This ongoing effort significantly raised brand awareness.
Nurturing Young Climbers and the Sport of Climbing.
adidas Outdoor recognized and supported the next generation of climbing heroes while the sport of climbing took off. At the same time, adidas Outdoor nurtured the sport of climbing and played a key role in climbing now being part of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Making the adidas Outdoor Brand Relevant to Mainstream.
Once we had established the brand as an authentic outdoor brand, this gave us permission to go to both mainstream media, influencers and every day consumers looking for footwear and apparel for daily outdoor activities – whether this was walking down Fifth Avenue in the winter, watching their kids playing a soccer game on the weekend, going for a run in San Francisco or taking a day hike in Boulder.
Leveraging the Changing Definition of the Outdoor Experience and The Love Affair Fashion was Having with the Outdoors.
The fashion world and the outdoor world are joined at the hip these days. In fact, the world of fashion is working hard to be “outdoorable.”
We tapped into this evolution and assembled small groups of financial, business, and fashion media (digital and broadcast) for small dinners in NYC with no branding, no hard sell and no story to pitch. We didn’t ask our guests for anything except to enjoy the wine and food and to share their insights on trends and current events. Greg was the spirited host for the likes of Associated Press, Bloomberg, Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, InStyle, The New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, among others. It was one of the most successful tools in our toolbox. We made adidas Outdoor relevant to their worlds and engaged in the art of conversation at what would become a dinner party of friends that had known each other for years.
It wasn’t easy at first, and we made some mistakes, but we’re learning every day and will continue to embrace those events that serve as tipping points, such as the 2015 Dawn Wall climb by Kevin Jorgenson and Tommy Caldwell. It was a climbing story that became a global human interest story that captured the hearts and minds of billions of people around the globe.
Personally, it has been one of my greatest pleasures to work with Greg Thomsen, who has become a dear friend and mentor leaving me with laughs and memories too numerous to count and maybe a few strands of gray hair – or should I say Arctic blonde.