The Player: Stamminger invokes heritage to revive Adidas sales in U.S.

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Erich Stamminger realizes that everything happens in steps, which is fitting for someone who oversees the global marketing efforts for the world's No. 2 sneaker and apparel company.

So before Adidas-Salomon can be off and running again in the world's most important marketplace, it first has to slow down and re-establish itself to a changing audience.

"It's critical that Adidas stabilize itself in the U.S." said Mr. Stamminger, heading into his fifth month as president-CEO of Adidas America, Portland, Oregon, as well as continuing his duties as global marketing chief of Adidas-Salomon. "This will only create a basis for future growth."

And right now, that growth is the reason Mr. Stamminger was shipped some 8,000 miles from Germany to the West Coast just before Christmas to assume his dual role. Though Adidas-Salomon is a solid second in the worldwide marketplace behind Nike, it-like rivals such as Reebok and New Balance-trail the Swoosh by a wide margin in the U.S.

According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Nike controls 37% of the U.S. market while Adidas, Reebok and New Balance struggle to maintain 11% to 13% of the market, if that, each.

"Naturally," Mr. Stamminger said, "that's not nearly enough for the No. 2 in the worldwide market."

Adidas sales fell 20% in North America in 2003, temporarily sidelining its ambitious goal of reaching a 20% market share in the U.S. by 2005 but forcing a shift in the focus of its marketing.

turning it around

"Perhaps the most important topic for us in 2004 will be turning around our Adidas business in North America," said Adidas-Salomon President-CEO Herbert Hainer, who added that 2003 wasn't just a one-year problem. Progress in the U.S., he said, has been "mixed" over the last several years.

Mr. Hainer admitted that Adidas was "slow to adapt to a shift in demand from many of our customers," and part of that led to the appointment of Mr. Stamminger as head of Adidas America.

Former Adidas America President Peter Moore told Women's Wear Daily in December that Mr. Stamminger was the right choice.

"He has a clear understanding of the brand and how it relates to the product," said Mr. Moore, who now runs his own consultancy. "He has worked in Germany, Europe and Asia. He knows the brand and knows what needs to be done. He comes off a little formal, but he's really a very good guy. He will hold the people to their task."

Mr. Stamminger's multi-part plan has already begun. In March, Adidas kicked off a comprehensive $50 million global ad campaign that goes back to the company's roots. The TV spots, from 180, Amsterdam, and the print ads, from Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, feature Muhammad Ali and legendary track star Haile Gebreselassie interspersed with modern-day Adidas endorsers such as soccer stars David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane. The ads use the tagline "Impossible Is Nothing" (see related story, P. 79).

Another part of the plan: more Adidas Originals stores. Its third U.S. store and 14th worldwide opened in Boston last month, and the company plans to have at least 15 retail outlets nationwide over the next two years.

The stores focus on Adidas' heritage. The company began in the late 1920s and was founded by brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler. The brothers split in 1948-but Adi continued to develop Adidas into a powerhouse.

"No other manufacturer has such a wide array of products that have written history," Mr. Stamminger said.

Unfortunately, much of that history has not been based on traditional American sports. While there's no question England's David Beckham and France's Zinedine Zidane are international soccer stars, the U.S. has little use for soccer.

So Mr. Stamminger said future product innovation, endorsements and marketing will revolve around the three big sports in the U.S.-football, basketball and baseball.

Résumé

Name: Erich Stamminger

Age: 46

Title: President-CEO, Adidas America; global marketing chief, Adidas- Salomon.

Who: After a 20-year career at Adidas, Mr. Stamminger took over as head of North America last December.

Performance: Adidas is the No. 2 sneaker and apparel maker worldwide behind Nike, but its performance in North America has been dismal. Mr. Stamminger seeks to revive U.S. sales growth by opening more concept stores and to continue an advertising blitz it started earlier this year.

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