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Since its beginnings in Germany in the 1920s, adidas has grown substantially. Today, adidas makes its mark on cultures around the globe through marketing and production practices. Some revere adidas as an enduring company that reinvents itself through mergers, sponsorships and ad campaigns. Others view the company as an industrial giant taking an unfair advantage of cheap labour in developing countries.
Adidas' roots go back to 1920, when it was a one-man operation in a small washroom in Germany. The shoes produced there were intended for running and training. The company expanded in Germany throughout the 1920s and 1930s, gaining employees and increasing output. Jesse Owens wore adidas shoes when he won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, thus igniting a global interest in the brand.
When athletic events appeared on television in the mid-1900s, viewers around the world saw adidas' three-stripe logo worn in events like the World Cup and the Olympics. The German brand gained credibility among cultures where there was interest in these various sporting events. Throughout the century, famous people, from athletes to pop stars, were seen wearing adidas footwear all over the world.
By 2006, adidas, faced with more and more competition in the sneakers market, merged with Reebok. It was said that adidas needed to combine its German cultural perspective, which valued workmanship, design and engineering, with Reebok's American, profit-driven cultural perspective in order to better market itself.
21st Century Marketing
In 2011, adidas launched a new marketing campaign aimed at engaging youth cultures around the world. Part of the campaign entailed filming young athletes in 12 cities, from the U.S. to France to China. In studying teen cultures around the globe, ad reps said they found -- among their three target groups of athletes, skate kids, and young people interested in fashion and music -- a unifying mindset of passionately giving one's all for something, and not just sports. The second part of the campaign, which involves commercials featuring famous musicians and athletes, aims to speak to that mindset, influencing global youth cultures.
While adidas expands its influence, targeting potential consumers around the globe, its cultural impact is also felt by people in developing countries, who complain of working conditions in adidas factories. When companies such as adidas seek to expand while maintaining profit margins, they often seek cheap labour, opening factories in developing countries where people are willing to work for less. Indonesian workers in adidas factories complain of working for long hours for very little pay. Some have reported earning only £3 per day in a country where a single serving of food costs around 80p. Similar complaints abound in countries like in China and El Salvador. As the adidas brand continues to thrive in many cultures, the impact of its increasing production is also a matter of concern.
- "The Globe and Mail"; adidas Strives To Capture the Global Culture of Teen Spirit; Simon Houpt
- Sneakerhead.com: adidas
- Casestudyinc.com: Is the adidas Reebok Merger Working?
- Oxfam Australia: Inside adidas' Indonesian Factories
- "The Sunday Times"; adidas Workers On 11 a Week in China; Michael Sheridan
- Ting Hoo/Digital Vision/Getty Images