THURSDAY 21 MAR 2019 1:28 PM


Focusing on the creativity in running and the transformational power of sport, Adidas has used compelling stories to change the perception of running and reposition its running brand. Brittany Golob reports

Adidas has long been loved by sports fans and athletes alike. Its creative and advertising work has been seen by millions. Its purpose is well understood. But it, like any athlete, won’t rest on its laurels.

Supporting the launch of the new Ultraboost 19 running shoe, Adidas has shifted its strategy. Across the business, it is focusing on creativity in sport and now Adidas is changing the way running is perceived.
To support this shift in communications strategy, Adidas worked with Amsterdam-based brand consultancy Brand Articulations and Studio Lore, its art studio sister agency, on ‘Recode Running.’ The campaign was crafted by Brand Articulations as a way to alter the perceptions of running, and thereby Adidas’ positioning with regards to the sport. ‘Recode Running’ launched alongside the Ultraboost shoe on 11 February. The first major communications in the campaign were two online films focusing on the transformational nature of running.

“In football, you have [Paul] Pogba and the way Pogba dribbles and creates opportunity, he’s a very creative football player, so it’s quite clear how creativity in football works. You have [James] Harden in basketball, for instance, and the way he drives the paint; the force with which he plays. Basketball is a very expressive sport so it’s quite clear how creating through sport – as a brand strategy – plays out in basketball. But you would never look at a runner going by and say, ‘Oh, there goes a creative runner,’” says Brand Articulations’ founder and executive creative director Boyd Coyner.

But, that’s not to say running is not creative. “Our big consumer insight was that creativity fuels transformation in running,” Coyner adds, saying running can help transform lives, society, culture and the sport itself. “And so we worked with the heads of running to translate the global brand strategy – ‘Create the New’ into a comms strategy to reposition the running category,” says Coyner. The team looked for examples of creativity in running.

It found the Swords. A Warsaw-based running club, the Swords featured in the ‘Recode Running’ film ‘To Hel & Back,’ which depicted the 430km mega-relay the group undertook. Not the typical story of endurance and exhaustion, the film instead focused on fun, and on the elements of play at work in the tight-knit running group’s journey.

It also found the Trash Runners. The social running club in Shanghai took to the streets for each run not only to exercise, but to improve the city by picking up trash along the way. Explored in ‘The Waste Race,’ the Trash Runners have started to create a movement.

Coyner says it was important to highlight stories in atypical running cities. “You don’t need to live in what you think of as a famous running city like Los Angeles or Tokyo or London to transform the sport,” he says.

Transformation simply requires a person with a creative idea and the drive to make it happen.

The stories themselves are inherently engaging as they focus on charismatic individuals and groups with unusual tales to tell. But it’s the style of filming Lore has taken that sets ‘Recode Running’ apart.
In ‘To Hel & Back,’ animation lends a vibrant tone to the otherwise gritty film. As it documents a road relay, much of the settings are roadside, but colour is in no shortage. The animated elements highlight key points of action and draw the eye to transformational moments within the film. The people themselves offer an enigmatic view of road running.

The film is also social-ready. Some segments are shot squar and the blend of styles keeps the viewer engaged throughout what is quite a long social video at just over four-and-a-half minutes.

The Trash Runners are similarly rendered in a creative way, with slow motion and sped up segments, eye-catching shots and artistic techniques, along with a doodled animation style. The film is supported by strong narrative from the focal runner, easy to spot in her white Adidas hoodie. At the end of the film, she says, “A body is like a city, a little exercise won’t make a difference, but doing those exercises regularly will gradually strengthen your body. It takes time.”

The visual storytelling is compelling on many levels, but it also suits Adidas’ brand strategy. “Adidas is a creative brand, so we felt it was our duty to push the boundaries of visual storytelling. In today’s visual world everything happens all at once. It’s multiple styles happening simultaneously so we didn’t want to limit ourselves to a particular [style]. It’s a lot of different converging styles at the same time because that’s definitely what’s happening in the real world,’ says Coyner. But it’s also what’s happening in Adidas’ positioning on running.

Caio Amato, senior director brand communication at Adidas Running says, “We want to get to the heart of the transformational nature of running. We want to celebrate how runners are pulling the sport apart and putting it back together again in different, more inspiring, and personal ways.”

Sam Handy, Adidas Running’s VP of design, said in the Ultraboost press release, “Running is constantly evolving, so we designed the reboosted and reenergised Adidas Ultraboost 19 to empower runners all over the world to keep challenging and changing what running is and what it looks like. We have created a shoe that provides more energy return than ever before so that all runners can run with power and confidence in whatever way their creativity takes them.”

In communications, as in running, there is no standing still. Brand Articulations and Lore are already hard at work on the next in the ‘Recode Running’ series, a feature examining a woman working on one of Europe’s largest refugee camps. She runs a running group intended to inspire refugees and allow them to see the transformative power of sport. In doing so, she has changed people’s lives by providing them with what may be their only opportunity to engage with sport.

The approach to creativity in running is part of a global brand strategy shift that will run throughout Adidas’ internal and external communications, one which began almost two years ago. The Adidas Running brand is repositioning itself as it seeks to reposition running itself, and it is doing so through transformative and creative content that inspires a new perception of the sport.



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