Adidas takes bigger steps forward in North America

In March, Adidas released its 2017 annual report showing that North American revenue grew 27 per cent.
In March, Adidas released its 2017 annual report showing that North American revenue grew 27 per cent.PHOTO: AFP

DALLAS (WP) - Adidas has cause to celebrate. Last month, it released its 2017 annual report showing that North American revenue grew 27 per cent - compared with 3 per cent for Nike.

Starting in the 1920s, brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler made shoes together in the small German town of Herzogenaurach. In 1948, they had a falling out - with Rudolf starting what would become Puma and Adolf founding Adidas.

In 1954, Germany won the football World Cup wearing Adidas cleats - and the brand took off. It also saw some success in the American market. By 1984, Adidas was the front-runner to sign a highly touted NBA draft pick named Michael Jordan.

Instead, Nike swooped in and made a now-famous deal that propelled it to the top of what has since been dubbed the "sneaker wars". Adidas has been stuck in second (or worse) for decades.

Part of Adidas' problem, analysts said, was that it was designing for a European audience. It fought back, moving some 200 top employees from Germany to the United States - including lead designer Paul Gaudio - and investing millions in the American market.

It also launched a shoe design hub in Brooklyn and a robotic "speedfactory" in Atlanta.

Growth can also be linked in part to Adidas' introduction of its Boost midsole technology in 2013. Designed in conjunction with German chemical company BASF, Boost is squishy foam cushioning that is layered into the shoe to increase comfort and energy transfer.

Adidas has been making big bets on the entertainment side too, adding Pharrell Williams, Kendall Jenner and Kanye West as collaborators.

Following up on Boost, Adidas says it has more significant technology changes in the works. "We're not here to finish second," said its head of US team sports Jeff McGillis.