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How Adidas is using the Olympics to broaden sport appeal

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The sports brand and its peers are keen to generate a buzz around the Games for Gen Z and teenage consumers



Adidas launched new shoes for 41 Olympic disciplines at an event in Paris on Thursday, alongside sponsored athletes including climbing gold medallist Janja Garnbret, as it uses the Games to hone its focus on sports rather than celebrities.

From sprint spikes to footwear made for the newest Olympic sport of breakdancing, the shoes are black with a white three-stripe logo and yellow-orange highlights, meant to represent the “flame” of athletes’ passion for their sport.

Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden has said he wants the brand to provide shoes and apparel for a wider variety of sports, a departure from its previous strategy of focusing more deeply on fewer sports.

Sportswear brands such as Adidas, Puma, and their bigger US rival Nike, are betting that their marketing spend and sponsoring of Olympic athletes and national teams will pay off as more consumers engage with sports and buy products like running shoes this summer.

Performance footwear, a category that includes running shoes, grew by 8.2% in 2023, according to Euromonitor, which forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 7.2% for the five-year period to 2028.

But with disposable incomes still squeezed by inflation, brands are having to work harder to convince shoppers to splash out.

“Consumers could be looking to engage more with the sportswear category given this summer’s Games, however capitalising on this increased attention to sports will be challenging across many markets,” said Suzi Gardner, senior research analyst at Euromonitor.

Adidas also launched kits for the Olympic teams it sponsors, including Germany, Team GB, Poland, the French athletics federation, and Brazil’s skateboarding federation. Its kits included apparel specially designed for athletes competing in a wheelchair.

As part of a drive to develop a new generation of Olympics enthusiasts, skateboarding, BMX freestyle, and climbing, which made their Olympic debuts in Tokyo in 2021, will also feature in Paris.

Adidas and its peers are also keen to generate a buzz around the Games for Gen Z and teenage consumers, a key demographic for them.

Nike last week invited influencers to a slick show in Paris, where sponsored athletes, including U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, and Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, showed off the brand’s new Olympics kits, moonlighting as models.

“It’s really about the lines blurring between what is fashion and what is performance, and people resonating with athletes to be taste-makers in that space,” said Abbie Zvejnieks, sportswear and retail analyst at Piper Sandler in New York.


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