Tag Archives: Adidas

When Is Enough Enough?

I’m not sure where you stand on the subject of corporate greed, but this is a story about one of my favourite companies who have decided that they are willing to endure a public relations disaster for the sake of a few bucks.

Next month New Zealand is hosting the Rugby World Cup.

The media and various politicians are reminding us daily what a Good Thing this is.  We are all supposed to feel good that all (?) eyes will be on little New Zealand and we will all get richer because (1) a lot of people, in the midst of the worst
economic downturn since the Great Depression, will spend a lot of money to come here and inject their hard earned dollars into our economy and (2) tourism, our biggest industry, will get a shot in the arm and even more tourist dollars will come rolling in.

All that may be true but it ignores the other side of the coin which is things like the debt service costs on white elephant stadiums and party venues that have been built with taxpayer money and the fact that the health service has basically said not to have a heart attack during the world cup because hospital emergency rooms are going to be overflowing with trauma injuries from alcohol fuelled fights and accidents.

But that’s not the basic issue before us today.  It relates to the behaviour of the
International Rugby Board and various organisations supplying world cup related merchandise.  As far as those guys are concerned, the World Cup is a giant pipeline designed to siphon money into their coffers from the pockets of people who can probably ill afford it.

And that mentality is epitomised by Adidas.

They have come up with a commemorative All Blacks rugby jersey that has been marketed as the “Must Have Item of the 2011 World Cup.”  Need I say more?  Adidas decided that they would sell 100,000 “units” in New Zealand this year and identified the lucky retailers who would carry them.  The “suggested (by Adidas) retail price” of the jerseys is NZ $220, which is about US $180.

That’s a lot for a sweatshirt, but the experts at Adidas figured people would cough up that kind of money.

Then two things happened.  First, someone figured out that they could
get a Chinese knock off online from eBay for about NZ $40.  But who wants a knock off when you can get the real thing?  The second thing that
happened was that people discovered that the real thing was available from
overseas Adidas distributors online at half the price including shipping and handling.

Who says globalisation isn’t good for the little guy?

Adidas, for one.

They don’t think it is a good idea for Kiwis to buy All Black stuff from overseas.  You know how when you buy something online they ask you what country you are in and you have to find your country on a scrolling list?  Well,
Adidas told people selling the jerseys on web sites to take New Zealand off the
list.  So we can’t buy the jerseys on line.

That was considered unsporting by just about everyone in NZ, even people who wouldn’t be caught dead in an Adidas All Black jersey.

So what did Adidas do? Did they say sorry, it was a mistake? No.  Did they say, we’ll lower the store price?  No. In fact they said that we were being unpatriotic and not willing to support local rugby because the “price reflected Adidas’s investment in the game in New Zealand.”  Which I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten a tax deduction for, by the way.

The New Zealand Herald had an online poll today asking whether people would boycott Adidas based on their “rugby jersey stance.”  Ninety percent said yes.  I’m guessing that the 10 percent who said “no” probably work for Adidas.

To put this in perspective, it is useful to remember that Adidas expected to sell 100,000 jerseys in NZ for $220.  If everyone bought them at $110, the total
loss would be $10 million.  Not all of that, in fact probably very little, comes out of Adidas’s pocket.  The retailers who have already bought the jerseys and have limited right of return are the ones who will take the hit.  And those are New Zealand businesses, unlike Adidas.  In fact, a number of retailers have lowered the prices significantly to give consumers a break.

Last fiscal year, Adidas earned $21 billion after tax in New Zealand dollars.  Ten
million bucks is less than .05% of that.  I’ve got to believe that someone at Adidas corporate headquarters thinks that’s worth losing the goodwill of an entire country.

Like, Is This For Real?

I came across an article with a headline guaranteed to catch the eye:  “Adidas Enlists Jedi Master Yoda to Fight Recession.”

I was in a literal mood when I read that and pictured a board room with everyone wearing brown robes and using The Force to make everything all better.

But that’s not what it is.  I read on and found that my expectation was more logical than the reality.  The article talked about Adidas launching a new line of shoes and “lifestyle” products with various kinds of Star Wars connections.  There are Princess Leia sneakers, Darth Vader jackets (with a detachable cape) and something called Stormtrooper track tops.

How many times have you paused in the middle of the day and thought, You know what’s missing from my life?  A Darth Vader jacket with a detachable cape.

In a further twist, the article explained that the new line of clothing was launched by rapper Snoop Dogg.  Maybe that’s why Nike hasn’t fired Tiger Woods yet.  At least Tiger Woods doesn’t have multiple arrests and isn’t banned from England.

I understand Adidas’s logic.  In an attempt to boost sales in the face of a global recession, they have linked their product with Star Wars.

But I thought that one of the aspects of global recession is that people are unemployed, or their jobs may be less secure and that is why they aren’t buying things.  People are limiting their spending to just the essentials.

So the question is, if Adidas’s sales are down because people are curtailing their spending, are Star Wars shoes and sports clothing going to prove sufficiently ‘essential’ that people will open their wallets?

It’s too early to tell because this stuff has just been introduced, but the market reaction seems to think people will buy.

And why is that, you ask.  The president of Lucas Licensing (yes, they have a whole company devoted to licensing stuff) explains:  “Star Wars is about hope.  It embraces the idea that one person can make a difference.  It is a vehicle for personal empowerment.”

A vehicle for personal empowerment? I think of a tank when I hear that.

Anyway, I guess the idea is that if you are worried about the economy, your job or the future in general, and you hope things will get better, you just fork out 200 bucks for a “Star Wars Famous Scenes Micropacer Shoe.” And then you will be empowered.  You will have made a difference.

The only difference you will have made is transferring money from your pocket to Adidas’s.

If $200 seems too much, you can get something called the “Yoda Boat Shoe.”  They cost only $125, no doubt in keeping with Yoda’s more austere image.  I’m a little hazy on my Star Wars but I didn’t know there was a connection between Yoda and boats.  Does he retire and get a yacht on the Riviera?

The reason that Adidas is doing all this, according to a market research guy, is “to reach a wider audience.”  I understand those words, but they don’t stand up to scrutiny.  “A wider audience” implies that there was already a group of people out there who have been walking around barefoot because they’ve been waiting for Star Wars Famous Scene shoes.

But then I did a little research of my own and found out how out of touch I am.  The social networking websites are abuzz with people raving about their new Star Wars/Adidas stuff.

Just Google Adidas Star Wars and you will feel the empowerment!  There is even aweb site that you can check out here that figures out where you are in the world, shows a bunch of Death Star scenes (with the obligatory heavy breathing by Darth Vader) and then zeroes in on the Google Earth view of your city and zaps an Adidas logo into it with the Death Star laser beam.

Is that cool or what?

Although I am totally incapable of getting excited about this whole concept, it really seems to have helped some people move up on the Maslow hierarchy.  For example, someone points out that “this new collection seamlessly fuses inspiration from legendary Star Wars characters and scenes with iconic Adidas Originals silhouettes.”

Shoes and outer space?  How can that fusion be seamless?  I don’t get it.

But even more scary is this observation:  “Each pair of shoes comes packaged in a plastic blister pack on cardboard, much in the same vein as the classic Star Wars toys, which really adds an extra bit of nostalgia.”

Now that is a leap I am not prepared to make.  As an adult I’m supposed to buy an overpriced pair of shoes because they come in a package that reminds me of a toy I got when I was little?  Who remembers stuff like that?  And who makes buying decisions on that basis?

I’ve got to believe that a company like Adidas has access to some of the best market research and brand consultants around.  So I’ve also got to believe that they know what they are doing and that this product offering and marketing campaign will pay off.

And that scares me more than Darth Vader.