Brand re-engagement: adidas France and World Cup '98

adidas France was lagging in business performance compared to other markets. Sales had been slow to respond to investment in the past.

The World Cup represented an opportunity to jump start the business in France. However the way adidas agreed to represent and commercially gain from it’s paid sponsorship of the French national football team was counter intuitive to many.








A new strategic brand platform built upon social insight and empathy

France hosted the World Cup in 1998 (and yes went onto win) – however the French team in the lead up to the event was far from loved or even liked – in fact the coach and players were largely disenfranchised from the public. In research it was found that fans were angry and quite open in voicing views that many of the players didn’t care for their country – or worse were not really ‘French’ (the ultra right Le Pen was at his peak in popularity at the time).

Rather than ignore the truth – adidas’ brand strategy was based squarely on joining the social mood and became active part of the negative relationship narrative between the ‘fans’ and the team.

Rather than follow the conventions of the category or the historical conventions connected with the brand – the brand chose a disruptive brand platform to activate a new storyline for the brand. And with any luck the team might actually do well! 


An extraordinary social – and brand transformation

By representing a social insight and brand platform, adidas established a deeper level of engagement with the French public based on a change of style and regard for its audience. The brand shift dramatically refreshed brand reputation in a way that had been elusive in the past.

Yes by chance the French team performed well (and won the World Cup). However the success for adidas was in the manner that a brand asset (sponsorship of the team) was used to create a new level of social currency with such a level that it dramatically forced a reappraisal of customers’ regard for the brand and it’s longer term appeal. A step change in in the brand’s ‘cool’ factor occurred that went onto disrupt the competitive market status quo – and value added returns. Socially and politically the style of the campaign was said to have an impact of the previously populist Le Pen movement.

Commercially from this point on there was a general shift in adidas’ reputation that enabled the brand to become a premium in the market, increase sales and become the sports brand market leader in France in both volume and value share.



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