Commentary and Theory with a yinzer slant #year9

The adidas Question

A few months ago, we posted this image on Instagram.

 

What are those

A post shared by 412lax (@412lax) on

 

It would have appeared that adidas jumped back into lacrosse hard goods market over the summer. First appearing at the NSCLA.

Later, New Jersey Riot, a top club team in the Garden State, announced they’d be going adidas on social.

Then, adidas gave James Harden a $200 million dollar deal, which sounds like a terrible move for the company, but a no brainer for Harden who was still wearing Jordan sneakers in September despite the sponsorship.

412: Why did you get back into lacrosse?

adidas rep: Denver’s win in the D1 title game made the sport that much bigger on the West Coast. (paraphrasing)

In November, IL suddenly has an unboxing video post and Lacrosse.com has an article about the product. Nothing more ridiculous than an unboxing video.

Meanwhile, NJ Riot leaves adidas to go back to Under Armour gloves.

They even opted out of adidas clothing for the fall.

@njriotlacrosse #fall2k15 game pinnys #howieschweebs #riot #riotboom

A post shared by NJ Riot Lacrosse (@nj_riot_lax) on

What adidas is up against?

Remember Easton?

Remember Gait?

Remember when adidas already tried to make lacrosse gear?

The lacrosse equipment world is a tiny, unforgiving place. The second most read post in 2015 covered the broken Ohio State helmet. Imagine trying to garner consumer support and admiration after something like that happens. adidas hasn’t done themselves any favors during their absence that would make this return to hard goods a more successful stint.

Their lacrosse sublimation prices are astronomical and offer little customization freedom that is expected with sublimated apparel. Shorts and reversibles cost $70-$80 a piece even with the customary 30% team sales discount, what club team is going to spend $52.50 for a reversible when they can get a generic brand sub reversible that offers far more creative freedom for $16 a pop?

adidas is not perceived as a cool brand

1. Basketball shoes are ugly and have always been a disaster
2. Running out of brand name colleges, can you name a school still on adidas? (we can because of the time spent in Bloomington)
3. College football/basketball fans reflexively hate anything adidas releases the same lacrosse fans crush any non-Cascade helmet

Rumor that they purposely made Michigan basketball uniforms ridiculous because the Big Ten school left for Nike (OUTSTANDING)

Missed out on partnering with MCLA, Under Armour took over for Nike. Nike completely wasted their chance with the MCLA. The same way Warrior wasted their chance to try to outfit the league with their helmets. To Under Armour’s credit they have been very aggressive in trying to outfit the teams in their apparel and hard goods.

Who could be a brand ambassador? Rabil’s career is winding down. The Thompson family is with Nike. What budding MLL star or current college senior do you see as being the face of adidas? Not sure selecting only one player, the way they tried to use John Grant Junior previously, will be the answer. They’ll need a stable of pro players to get as many different eyes on the products on possible. Could Myles Jones or Matt Kavanagh be enough to carry the brand? Will adidas even be able to sign them?

Why aren’t they pounding grassroots and/or social media? Their Instagram page has zero posts. Perhaps it isn’t the official Instagram but that may be wishful thinking on our part. Lacrosse.com’s Twitter account seems to be doing the brunt of the work.

They don’t even have a lacrosse specific website. Just a portion of their store website dedicated to product sales.

Then again, neither does Nike.

The product names are terrible. The heads are named Bawse, D-Monic, and Enrayge. Not a huge strike, but another tiny piece of the “adidas isn’t cool” puzzle.

How can adidas make lacrosse work…

Participation in sport continues to grow thanks to kids being bored silly with baseball and the concussion fears in youth football. Not that you can’t get hurt in lacrosse.

If you’re a young parent who knows nothing about lacrosse and you go to a big box store, are you more likely to purchase equipment from a major brand adidas/Nike/Under Armour or a niche brand STX/Brine/Maverik?

Everyone thought the MLL would disappear. Somehow despite all the beer league jokes, the league is still around. what if the MLL takes off? What if adidas gets into the league? According to Forbes, adidas is the 3rd most valuable sports brand in the world at $6.2 Billion behind ESPN $17 Billion and Nike $26 Billion. They aren’t going anywhere. Will their interest in the sport last long enough for a pro league to really take shape? adidas has already been kicked out of the NBA. There is money around for a niche pro league, hockey uniforms not withstanding.

If college athletics ever have to pay athletes, some fear that money will cripple the growth of the game at the NCAA level. Others have wondered allowed what it may do to the club sports world, specifically the MCLA. Perhaps not being in on the MCLA right now will allow force adidas to be creative with their marketing dollars. Would it be smart to target high school programs and/or entire club programs? Would a more grandiose recruiting camp be a way to get additional eyes on the product?

adidas appears to be making a return to cultural relevance thanks to Kanye and the aforementioned James Harden.

Sneakersheads will really, really, really enjoy this Bleacher Report article we tweeted yesterday. The one thing that adidas (and Nike) has that Under Armour doesn’t is their lifestyle brand. No one is wearing Under Armour shoes to the club like people wear Jordans and Yeezy 350s. The adidas trefoil logo remains one of the more iconic brand logos. If adidas put the trefoil logo on performance wear apparel and made it available to the public, they would have more teams wearing their stuff than they do right now. Indiana 2012-2014 club lacrosse would definitely have been all in on trefoil merch. For better or for worse, we only had adidas clothing for 2012 and then communication broke off for year two.

Can adidas really enter the lacrosse world (again)?

adidas will have to land a marque college team to stay in the gear news cycle. Bryant, Bucknell, Siena, Delaware, UMass, and Limestone are schools currently featured in the adidas catalog. Lots of talk surrounding Denver as being an option but folks are quick to point out that’s a Warrior team. Ask Warrior what brands Michigan is using right now. Ask Maverik what brands Notre Dame is using right now. These things change and change quickly.

It took UA a year to figure out how to make gloves following their forced entry into College Park.  The 2014 NJ Riot UA gloves we have were very impressive especially given the lower price point of the

There’s nothing to suggest that adidas can’t make the same inroads as Under Armour. Leveraging their existing soft goods deals will result in more schools using adidas hard goods in the same way UA has expanded. (You know who really wants this to happen? Cascade. More adidas could mean less Warrior helmets.) The problem is these contract deals don’t necessarily translate to consumer sales. Warrior and Brine helmets have won multiple national championships at all collegiate levels since being introduced. There were no Warrior or STX helmets in the local Pittsburgh lacrosse we visited a month ago.

If East Coast Dyes and friends can make consumers care about mesh in a way that no one literally could have thought possible in 2005, then adidas can break back into the lacrosse market.

Could a splash product like wax mesh or Under Armour’s Highlight Cleats be what adidas needs to become a mainstay? A better question might be, will adidas higher ups give the lacrosse division enough time and money to create a splash product?

What if, instead of a splash product, the brand simply regained its coolness? Very chicken and the egg.

Current lacrosse consumers don’t remember Run DMC. They don’t remember a time when adidas was cool. They just remember every terrible uniform the brand made for Notre Dame, not including the trefoil retro kits.

James Harden is a good player, but he’s never going to win an NBA title in Houston. He’s better known for his abysmal defense, beard, and traveling (Euro-step).

He’s not Lebron.

He’s not Steph Curry.

Maybe, it doesn’t matter to this generation’s group of kids. Maybe his antics will continue to raise his profile. Maybe his signature shoes will be aesthetically pleasing on and off the court in ways former adidas hoop shoes weren’t and current Under Armour (Steph) shoe’s aren’t even close to being street friendly. The all white Crazylight Boost 2015s Harden was wearing earlier in the year were incredible.

Today, adidas announced that 100 pairs of the Harden PEs will go on sale.

Now enter Kanye.  Kanye has made adidas hip with the 350s and 750 even though they are a hyper luxe shoe that the regular consumer will likely never own which is certainly part of the hype and buzz surrounding the brand.

Check out this Forbes article from November suggesting Kanye, plus Pharrell, and James Harden can and will save the brand:

In the last three years, Adidas’ revenue increased at an average growth rate of 3%, while net operating margin was stable at 7%. On Nov. 5, Adidas reported third-quarter profit that beat estimates, announced it would cut its golf division by 14%, and raised forecasts for 2015. For 2015 and 2016, consensus estimates expect revenue growth of 10% annually and EPS annual growth of 28%.

Bet you didn’t know adidas was increasing revenue and street cred.

Back to a version of the original query.

What is more likely to happen for adidas lacrosse:

  1. They make a splash product for the sport, think something of the magnitude of wax mesh, the offset head, cleats that look like they don’t belong on grass but then everyone craves them in unique colorways
  2. The brand battles back into cultural relevancy, is considered cool again or for the first time depending upon the age of the consumer, and that relevancy powers the lacrosse division in a similar fashion as it does for Nike and Under Armour

Both are going to be super difficult.

Maybe we need to better understand the brand’s motives for reentering a niche sport that previously wanted nothing to do with its offerings. Time will answer that question for us. If they are just out to add revenue to their bottom line, their marketing, product names, and product quality will remain unoriginal and uninspired. Nothing they’ve done so far is making anyone want to purchase a Bawse head including but not limited to naming one of their products, Bawse, not regularly crushing social, putting this Bryant uniform on the cover of their spring catalog. Eye catching but not how many people outside of the lacrosse world were even familiar with Bryant prior to seeing that catalog cover?

If the hope is a longer term stay in the lacrosse world, the originality and creativity that made Run DMC, Kanye, and James Harden famous better come to the forefront.

If you had closely read the Bleacher Report article, they mentioned Wieden+Kennedy ads as being critical to Nike’s rise to the top. Wieden has created some of the most iconic spots in marketing. The first time a lacrosse company comes out with something close to a Wieden piece or something that’s much different than a player on a field you they will be playing on a different level of exposure and creativity. Lacrosse ads suck. Nothing adidas has done since the summer suggests their ads for the 2016 line aren’t going to be soul crushingly boring as well.

(Here’s a March 2014 post detailing the boring nature of current lacrosse spots, including a Wieden reference.)

What if the 2016 spring catalog had a Miami lacrosse uniform on the cover? Sounds a lot sexier than Bryant. Would have generated way more buzz in the lacrosse community then, “oh, adidas is trying it again.”

How much longer do we have to wait for an online custom glove generator? If you don’t have an online glove generator, how can any consumer spend time designing gloves and falling in love with your brand? Hard to believe anybody is really all in on lacrosse equipment if they don’t have this marketing piece ready to go in the summer when teams are making custom glove decisions for the following spring.

Can the lacrosse division use Primeknit technology for their gloves, elbow pads, shoulder pads or is that just for footwear? (Answer may be in the linked Soccer Bible article.)

How are they trying to attract customers for their hard goods? STX and Warrior pushed multiple customization options for their helmets. Hasn’t worked.

How fast will this post make it to key adidas lacrosse people? Will they care? Will they reach out? Probably not after they read what comes next.

Lolz. Just realized that image wasn’t retweeted or liked by anyone.

After discovering the 2016 spring adidas catalog featured new lacrosse equipment and apparel, meeting with an area rep, and seeing regular NJ Riot postings about the brand, we were considering going with adidas for a new line of 412 clothing.

We even went as far driving out to Moon Township to meet the rep at the adidas showroom. The benefit of wearing a unique brand did not outweigh several factors and decided against adidas. Imagine the tone of this post if we had joined the Three Stripe Squad. Just a short time ago, we used to carry the biggest Warrior helmet banner.

adidas is the same company that let Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant go, but perhaps the recent momentum wave will carry over to a niche sport.

God help them if they try to release a helmet.

___________

If nothing else, read this incredible article about the rise and fall and rise of adidas just for the gifs.

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