HAVE you ever heard of the ‘adidas Curse’?
Shortly after being named the youngest MVP in NBA history after a stellar 2011 season, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose’s professional career went into a tailspin. During an injury-plagued 2011-2012 season, Rose suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the first game of the playoffs that caused a demoralized Bulls team to exit in the first round. Rose missed the entire 2012-2013 season. An attempted return in 2013 ended after 10 games when Rose sustained a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Rumors soon began to circulate online that spread via social media and web forums that the lightning-quick guard and marquee adidas endorser is one of the victims of the so-called ‘adidas Curse’ wherein professional athletes, particularly those in the NBA and the NFL, supposedly sustained debilitating and career-threatening injuries while endorsing the popular German brand.
During the Titan Trial Run of the D Rose 5 Boost, SPIN.ph talked to Jhel Capanas of adidas about their basketball strategy, particularly efforts to dispel the ‘curse’ which in some way or another has affected perception of the brand.
Capanas is the adidas assistant manager for field sales.
“Some of the Rose fans started to become superstitious. It’s a series of unfortunate events. But then it happens to everyone. The initiative… was for people to know that if a product is good or not, you don’t to listen to stories and hearsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram," he said.
"You know what? Shoes get broken down eventually - there is no single shoe in the world that you can play in all 82 games and practices in a year and still going be like 100 percent quality. For us to dispel that, (adidas and Titan) had a meeting and we agreed it was hard to convince superstitious yuppies.”
Superstition or not, starting in 2013, running has actually overtaken basketball for adidas in the Philippines.
“That’s okay for running but that’s not okay when the No.1 sport in the country is not your No.1 category. In terms of basketball, we wanted to know how we can attack the market," noted Capanas.
“People have a lot of opinions and that’s okay - everyone is in our market and we wanted to know, ‘How can we grow that?' Let’s go to those who are still actually discovering everything else," said Capanas.
On the wooden floor of the Treston International College gym in Bonifacio Global City, Spin.ph witnessed firsthand part of the strategy adidas is employing - inviting 20 young players from the Batang Gilas and the UAAP to try out the latest signature shoes of the Chicago Bulls star in a series of drills that culminated in an actual game supervised by PBA greats Jeffrey Cariaso and Olsen Racela.
“Our focus now in adidas is how we influence the kids. We don’t have to tweet the injuries of other people in other brands. It happens and it happens to us. Those who look at it are the trolls on social media. If you look at it, these kids want to know and they should know how their shoes work.”
For adidas, a youth movement is the way to go. The Three Stripes have recently signed No.1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins, Washington Wizards guard John Wall and promising rookie Dante Exum to join forces with the likes of Rose, Dwight Howard and rising star Damian Lillard in its stable of endorsers.
According to data from HoopsHype.com, Nike, in terms of brand rankings, has 283 player-endorsers in the NBA while adidas is a distant second with 70 players.
“For those who were kids in the late 80s who saw the ‘Jordan Shot’ - that probably turned millions of people into Jordan fans. We have Damian Lillard - who had a whole year worth of moments - and we have Derrick Rose. If you were a 15-year old kid when (Rose) was MVP you’d be in college now.
"His fans - the real fans - are saying he’s gonna come back. So we’re capitalizing on that. So a combination of letting these kids know that these players you idolized who we sponsor, adidas is going to do something to them to you to benefit from.”
The adidas exec described their plan as follows: “we attack the kids in such a way that if they want (to know) if a shoe is good, let’s give them a pair and see if they can actually influence the market.”
Adidas got the ball rolling with the release of the Crazy Light Boost which was an open invitation for Titan Club members and selected college and high school varsity players.
“Now we have the Batang Gilas in here. Kids influence kids in social media. It’s something that we’re capitalizing on. Arvin Tolentino (Ateneo), (National University’s) Gelo Alolino and Aljon Mariano are here and we are very happy about that. We hope they follow the lead of Damian Lillard who is the king of social media right now in the NBA and is among the top point guards in the NBA,” said Capanas who added that they are also trying to get some of their major NBA endorsers to do promotional tours and actually play .
Adidas is focusing their efforts on the UAAP rather the PBA. According to Capanas, “the PBA is a different market compared to the NCAA and the UAAP, which is really our focus because of the branding of the players and the recruits. In the UAAP, high school recruitment is getting insane and getting to the level of US colleges (and we are) dictated by the crazy type of hype going around it,” Capanas explained.
The PBA and the NCAA, in that order, are next in line based on the players adidas has recruited in pushing their brand.
“We got guys like Gelo, Alvin, Aljon, Kevin (Alas) and of course Roi (Sumang). This has to work. Getting these kids is actually the first step. We don’t want them to change their personality on social media. We don’t want them to keep posting shoes, posing with celebrities and then taking photos - that’s up to them. We like their game. We like their personalities,” Capanas pointed out.
As to picking who to pick to represent their brand, Capanas has a surprising answer in regards to their criteria.
“If you notice in adidas we kinda like the ‘Mama’s Boys.' Look at Dame after making his shot the first person he voluntarily hugged was his mom. He looked for her. Derrick Rose always inserts his mom into his signature shoes. It just so happens that those we have now are actually close to their mothers.
"It’s cool if you have a good following but if you’re not a good influence to the youth we don’t want to go that way. I think the founders of every sport company look into people of character. So strong moral character is in every qualification. Their game and personality are the next big step.”
Adidas hopes that once these young players transition to the PBA, their brand affinity carries over.
“We’re back in the game. Last year I think we only had Chris Tiu in basketball. Now we’re really looking into pushing into the grassroots.”
Considering the amount of competition it faces against market leader Nike and emerging brands such as Jordan, Under Armor and a host of companies from China, adidas has its work cut out in getting players to wear the 3 Stripes.
“It’s kinda hard to be looking at a certain brand or silhouette and when a person signs a contract that’s the only time the person changes shoes and it kinda makes it look like you’re wearing it (because you’re paid to). We don’t want to go that route. We want to influence guys like Alvin and Aljon - those who really prefer the product.”
Adds the bespectacled adidas manager: “Let’s face it - they’re good enough to try with other brands and we want to get those who want us. I’m pretty sure everybody has the same level of pitch but focusing on these kids and checking out their character and how we like them should be good. And we are going to build on it.”