Even so, it didn’t take Erica Kerner, director of the German company’s Beijing 2008 Olympics Program, long to realize how fast-paced her new position at Adidas was going to be after she joined the sportswear company in 2004.
During her second day on the job, she arrived in Athens to attend the 2004 Olympic Games, to learn firsthand how sponsors can use the event to grow both brands and revenue.
It was an important crash course, as the New York native is now responsible for all aspects of the company’s marketing, sponsorship, licensing and business development activities surrounding the games in Beijing, an event worth millions in revenue for sponsors.
“Being a sportswear sponsor of a sporting event makes it easier and more difficult for us, compared to other sponsors,” said Ms. Kerner, who was featured earlier this year in Advertising Age's annual "Women to Watch" report.
“We’re already closely associated with sports. 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 position is particularly important to Adidas, whose market share is second to Nike's in China, one of the world’s fastest-growing sportswear markets. Adidas already has more than 2,000 stores in over 300 Chinese cities, with two new stores opening every day. It will have at least 4,000 stores in China by the time the Games come to Beijing in 2008.
During the official signing ceremony last year, Adidas Group’s CEO Herbert Hainer publicly called the Games “a unique platform to build the Adidas brand image and business in China, as well as the whole of Asia.”
Although Ms. Kerner is well-versed in sportswear marketing and the sports industry--she competed on the international junior tennis circuit as a nationally ranked U.S. player--and has become an Olympic expert in the past two years, it’s challenging territory for everyone at the company.
At the highest international sponsorship level alongside veteran Olympic partners like Coca-Cola, there is no official sportswear category and at the national level, sportswear was delegated to a third-tier, supplier arrangement.
But the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games (BOCOG) broke with tradition and selected Adidas as its Official Sportswear Partner for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
“BOCOG saw the value of sportswear and elevated it to the highest level,” said Ms. Kerner, a trim American in her thirties. “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.”
Adidas will supply sportswear for staff, volunteers and technical officials of the Beijing Games and outfit the Chinese Olympic teams competing in Beijing as well as in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, and is the only brand licensee partner for the Olympic Games.
That means other sponsors like McDonald’s can market and distribute products co-branded with the Olympic logo, but only Adidas can sell them. Last month, it introduced its first co-branded retail products, such as clothes and caps, in its Chinese stores.
To win the coveted slot, Adidas had two strong competitors--market leader Nike, and Li Ning, a local brand started by its namesake, Mr. Li, China’s first Olympic hero. To help secure the coveted sponsorship position, Adidas tapped Ms. Kerner, who has been involved in marketing in Greater China for more than 15 years, as its team leader..
In 1989, shortly after she graduated from Tufts University, she joined Bates Advertising in Taipei, Taiwan, in client service, then relocated to the mainland in 1991 as Nike’s first marketing director in China. She spent the next eight years with Nike, eventually moving into its global management office in Beaverton, Oregon.
In her final position there, she oversaw marketing and strategy development for Niketown and Nike retail stores outside the U.S., including the opening of a 72,000 sq. ft. flagship Niketown store on London..
But she missed China, and in 1999 she returned in a client service position at JWT, Shanghai, where she managed the agency’s Pepsi and DeBeers (now Diamond Trading Company) business.
After four years, she said the crazy hours and “a desire to give something back to China, which has been so good to me,” prompted her to take a new position as director of marketing and communications for the Special Olympics in East Asia, developing its China marketing, branding and communications strategies.
She was lured back to the corporate world by a headhunter who offered, in Ms. Kerner’s words, “the perfect job at Adidas--sports, kids, events and China.”
Other appointment news in Greater China
[hong kong] Harry Hui will leave his post as president, Southeast Asia of Vivendi’s Universal Music in January 2007, to take up an undisclosed new position in the entertainment industry. Mr. Hui has run Universal Music’s operation in Asia for five years, particularly in China, where he led the company's aggressive digital media strategy. Before that, he was a senior executive at Viacom’s MTV Networks Asia. Max Hole, London-based executive VP, international of Universal Music Group and president, Asia/Pacific, will assume direct responsibility for Universal’s Southeast Asia operations, which include Hong Kong, China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and South Korea, until a successor has been named.
[hong kong] Microsoft Corp.’s portal MSN has appointed Hong Kong-based Karin Tam and Joyce Lui as regional trade marketing managers, Greater Asia. Ms. Tam was previously marketing manager at the Asian online travel site Zuji.comm, while Ms. Lui was regional product manager for Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming service, in Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. The U.S.-based computer company has also appointed Taipei-based Daphne Pan as MSN’s trade marketing manager for Taiwan. Previously, she was head of sales and marketing at SQV Design International, also in Taipei.
[hong kong] David Butorac, 44, will join News Corp.’s Star Group in November as president, platforms, a new position based in Hong Kong designed to develop opportunities in platform businesses across Asia for delivering Star’s content . He currently serves as group chief operating officer for Astro All Asia Networks, based in Kuala Lumpur. Before he joined Astro, Malaysia’s direct-to-home satellite TV operator, in 2002, he spent 14 years at News Corp.’s British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) division in London, where he held a series of positions, including head of operations and station manager.
[hong kong] The Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Hong Kong (HK4As) has appointed Angela Ng as executive director. Previously a PR consultant to the HK4As, she succeeds Margaret Wong, who has retired.
[hong kong] Eight Partnership, a Hong Kong-based brand communications firm, has appointed Adeline Chu as director of client services, a new position, and Patrick Tom as exec creative director. Previously, Ms. Chu was business director at Asia Wireless Media, while Mr. Tom was creative director at Publicis Worldwide, Hong Kong. He succeeds Hong Kong-based Chris Kyme, who has been promoted to general manager.
[shanghai] TBWA Worldwide’s direct marketing arm, Tequila has promoted Ross Gearing, 36, to general manager of its new Beijing office from director, CRM at Tequila, Shanghai.