Erica Kerner

Adidas Group

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It didn't take Erica Kerner long to realize how fast-paced her new position at Adidas was going to be after she joined in 2004.
Erica Kerner, director of the Beijing 2008 Olympics Program for Adidas Group

During her second day on the job, Ms. Kerner arrived in Athens to attend the Olympics, to learn firsthand how sponsors can use the Games to grow brands and revenue. As director of the Beijing 2008 Olympics Program for Adidas Group, she's responsible for company marketing, sponsorship, licensing and business-development activities surrounding the event.

"Being a sportswear sponsor of a sporting event makes it easier -- and more difficult -- for us," says Ms. Kerner, based in Shanghai. "We're already closely associated with sports," she says. "But it's more difficult -- we have to differentiate our partnership from the other work that we do. We have to be smarter and more strategic in how we do it, so consumers remember our message and that we are the official partner."

The Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games broke with Olympic tradition and selected an official sportswear partner of the Olympics. The position is enormously important to Adidas, whose market share runs second behind Nike in China, one of the world's fastest-growing sportswear markets. During the official signing ceremony last year, Adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer called the Games "a unique platform to build the Adidas brand image and business in China, as well as the whole of Asia."

The Beijing Organizing Committee "saw the value of sportswear and elevated it to the highest level," says Ms. Kerner, a trim American in her early 40s who earlier in her life competed on the international junior tennis circuit as a nationally ranked U.S. player. "That gives us more marketing rights, the ability to work closely with the organizing committee and associate Adidas with the other brands that are top sponsors through strategic marketing alliances."

Ms. Kerner has been involved in marketing in Greater China for more than 15 years, both on the agency side and for Nike. While at Nike, she eventually moved to its global management office in Beaverton, Ore.

In 1999, Ms. Kerner returned to China in a client service post at JWT. After four years, the "crazy hours" and "a desire to give something back to China" prompted Ms. Kerner to take a position as director of marketing and communications for Special Olympics in East Asia, developing its China marketing and brand strategies.

She was lured back to the corporate world by a headhunter offering, in Ms. Kerner's words, "the perfect job at Adidas -- sports, kids, events and China."
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