Adidas chases fashion market with global ad campaign

With trendy sports apparel and shoes outselling true performance and athletic products, Adidas will go global in January with ads for its Originals fashion brand.

The line accounts for 20% of Adidas sales. The items, with an average price of $70, include the classic Stan Smith tennis shoe, fleece hoodies, skimpy tennis dresses and shimmery T-shirts.

Ads for Originals, the company's first mass-market campaign in 60 years, are going worldwide after kicking off in the U.S. for the holidays.

Adidas will tap its roster of celebrity and sports endorsers for Originals. David Beckham, Missy Elliott and Russell Simmons appear in an ad that shows people dancing at a crowded party.

"Teens still want something that is fashionable and deals with innovation," says Simon Atkins, director of U.S. marketing.

"The campaign and the people that are in it are on point with their needs," he says. "That's outside of a good, bad or indifferent economy."

Adidas is vying for a bigger share of the sports apparel and footwear market, a $70.2 billion business in the U.S. this year, according to tracker NPD Group.

And fashion is $45 billion of that vs. $25.2 billion for performance products.

Brands such as Reebok and Skechers helped make athletic looks fashionable for every day. Brands built more on performance, such as Nike, Puma and Asics, have been trying to move more into fashion to grab some of those profits.

Growth of both categories is flat in the current economy, but retail expert Marshal Cohen says new styles and innovation can spur sales even in tough times.

"Luxury is the last thing that goes out in a recession and the first to recover," says Cohen, NPD trend watcher and chief industry analyst. "Consumers are (looking for) a reason to buy, and technology and fashion drive people to make purchases."

Asics revived its name in the youth market when it got its yellow-and-black Tai-Chi Onitsuka Tiger shoes onto actor Uma Thurman's feet in the 2003 film Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

Nike gave new life to classics such as the original Air Jordan by letting people customize them through NikeID. Fashion is now about 20% of Nike sales.

And Puma began a growth plan in 2006 to focus on a sports lifestyle. Through October, Puma's 2008 sales were up 9%.

"Puma was essentially a defunct brand, but over the last few years, they've been able to put themselves back on the map, and they've done it through fashion," Cohen says.

"Nike's done a better job," he says. "Adidas is now making a major move toward it. It's a good card to play at this point in time."

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