Adidas’s lifestyle brand, Adidas Originals, has a strong social media following based around its collaborations with a long list of designers and celebrities, a tradition that Adidas Originals general manager Arthur Hoeld said dates backs to the 1980s.
“Looking back over the brand’s collaborative relationships, one of the earliest moments that comes to mind is our work with Run-D.M.C.,” said Hoeld. “That partnership really signaled the beginning of a new method of partnership for us at Adidas, with the brand reacting to our ever-growing transition from court to street.”
Run-D.M.C.’s inaugural turn with the brand, which involved a million-dollar endorsement deal and a limited edition shelltoe Superstar sneaker collaboration following his single “My Adidas,” is often credited as the birth of modern hip hop sneaker culture. Adidas has since built out a lengthy list of collaborations with fashion designers as well as celebrities-turned-designers, working on collections with names like Stella McCartney, Jeremy Scott Yohji Yamamoto, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Opening Ceremony, Palace, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, whose Yeezy Boost collaborations with Adidas Originals have premiered at huge New York Fashion Week spectacle shows for the past three seasons.
Adidas Originals, the brand under which the majority of these collaborations fall, was founded in 2000. Hoeld credits its long history of streetwear and performance collaborations for pushing the brand forward during a crush of heightened competition in the athleisure market. As Adidas’s sales rose 22 percent in the first quarter of 2016, it credited its lifestyle brand’s double-digit growth as carrying part of that momentum.
“The common link that unites these projects is a mission to consistently deliver leading design solutions,” said Hoeld. “These projects in particular oftentimes appeal to the customer who is looking for something more special, signature and limited.”
That appeal has driven growth on social media. Adidas Originals has surpassed the main Adidas brand on its separate Twitter and Instagram accounts, where it has 3.3 million and 12.4 million followers, respectively, compared to Adidas’s 2.8 million and 8.9 million. The @AdidasOriginals accounts are a comprehensive guide to the new sneaker drops, including limited edition Stan Smiths and Superstar collections, the classic sneakers that are currently experiencing a streetwear-fueled renaissance, as well as Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 750s.
West’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show in February was the fourth most talked-about show on social media, according to Brandwatch data with 6,000 mentions on the day it premiered.
“It’s the celebrity status and the willingness of the fan armies to follow them,” said Brandwatch analyst Kellan Terry. “With these fashion collaborations, they’re selected very specifically. A lot of thought goes into these, and the social media aftermath speaks to that.”
Terry also credited fashion’s visual campaigns for boosting Adidas Originals on social media. To that end, Adidas also invests heavily in the campaigns surrounding its new Adidas Originals launches, like the recent “Pink Beach” collection by Pharrell Williams. The campaign for the collection, which Adidas did in collaboration with the agency Lloyd & Co, was shot on pink sands by photographer Viviane Sassen, and the photos and video debuted on Instagram.
“Over time, we’ve continued to examine the potential of sport style, [which has] resulted in partnerships with creative pioneers like Yohji Yamamoto, Raf Simons, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West,” said Hoeld. “As a result, we’ve achieved a certain credibility here.”
Around 70 percent of Adidas’s business still falls under sports apparel, mainly soccer, of which it has a 39 percent hold on the global market. But in America, Adidas fell into third place for the first time in the sports apparel category in the U.S. behind Nike and Under Armour.
“We have an equally storied history in the street, music and lifestyle scenes as well [as sport],” said Hoeld. “This offers the brand a treasure-chest of non-court moments for us to draw inspiration from and explore.”
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