How Adidas Is Introducing a New Generation to Its Oldest Sneakers


Adidas Originals is getting a makeover.

On Friday, the German sportswear giant will launch a new campaign along with a fresh “visual identity” for Adidas Originals, its 51-year-old fashion and lifestyle division. It’s part of the brand’s strategy to capitalise on the surging popularity of franchises like the Samba and Gazelle, which have replaced Nike’s Dunks as the latest “it” sneakers among young, fashion-forward consumers over the past year and a half.

“The plan is to introduce the heritage and history of Adidas Originals to a new, younger group of consumers who are discovering these products maybe for the first time,” said Torben Schumacher, senior vice president global general manager of Adidas Originals, basketball and partnerships.

The campaign — bearing the tagline “We Gave the World an Original. You Gave Us a Thousand Back” — will shine a light on the different subcultures that have adopted the sneakers over the years, Schumacher said. The Superstar, for example, was originally designed as an on-court basketball sneaker but was later adopted for casual use by hip-hop groups like Run-DMC.

The resurgence of Adidas’ lifestyle sneakers came at an opportune time for the company, which was left with a €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) hole in its balance sheet following the costly termination of its Yeezy sneaker partnership with rapper Ye in October 2022. (The company has since recouped a significant amount in orders since it began selling its backlog of unreleased Yeezys in May).

In May, on the company’s first quarter earnings call, chief executive Bjørn Gulden told analysts and media that the brand was taken aback at the sheer demand for Sambas in late 2022, after its limited-edition collaborations with Gucci and Wales Bonner drove unprecedented interest in the sneakers. Adidas responded by ramping up production of Sambas, aiming for millions of pairs by the end of 2023, a target it had originally set for early 2024, Gulden said.

Adidas’ hope is that building marketing and storytelling around these sneakers will build long-term affinity among consumers at a time when “retro” styles continue to dominate the lifestyle footwear category.

“These sneakers have allowed us to play with the tension between sport and culture for so long now,” Schumacher said. “This is an intersection that is so interesting and meaningful for today’s [younger] generation.”

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