Adidas Running From TV? Not So Fast

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A scene from an Adidas ad.
A scene from an Adidas ad. Credit: Adidas

The CEO of Adidas, Kasper Rorsted, recently announced on CNBC that the company is stepping "away from TV advertising." Wait, no TV for one of America's leading lifestyle brands? If true, it looks like another chapter in the "win for digital and loss for TV" story.

In my role of leading media strategy and investment for marketers, I continue to believe strongly in television as a valid medium.

Adidas certainly has made progressive moves in major areas of its business, especially when it comes to digital. But still, no more Adidas on TV? What about football, basketball, baseball, golf and tennis? It seems inevitable that if Adidas stays in the sports game, TV will have to be part of the brand's media mix.

So, in pursuit of understanding, I pulled my Adidas NMDs out of their pristine box, sat back and tried to understand how this walkout might happen -- and what marketers can learn from the possibility. Here's what I found.

It's easy to disrupt your media mix when the business has already been disrupted, but think twice about discounting TV. While the majority of sneakers are sold through conventional retail channels, the lifestyle sneaker business changed the game; it's now bigger than ever before, especially in driving awareness. Most kicks sell out instantly because of months of social media hype prior to launch, fueling even more demand for the next drop. Long term, a brand the size of Adidas can't rely exclusively on a niche market to sustain a global business. TV is still incredibly relevant at delivering immediate awareness and messaging impact at scale. People -- especially sports lovers -- are still choosing TV to be a part of their routine, regardless of delivery platform or device.

Everything is media, and it all works for your brand. Like many lifestyle brands, Adidas has expanded beyond just athlete "ambassadors" to include artists and influencers who bring along their own media plans … and they're increasingly mobile/social-first. This collaboration economy creates earned media and endorsement on a massive scale. We live in an increasingly visual world where everything a consumer sees is media, and not everything can be measured by a reach/frequency, CPM, or CTR. It's the value of all these assets that lets Adidas' CEO so confidently talk about walking away from TV.

TV will continue to impact industries like sports, but think and spend differently. Sports culture is bigger than ever and not going anywhere. Because of this, TV will continue to be a big part of Adidas' future media efforts -- it just may not be a :30 TV spot. The brand will still be seen on ESPN, NBC, Fox and beyond, with the Adidas logo visible on the bodies of athletes, celebrities and cool kids alike. Retailer co-op TV advertising from the likes of Foot Locker and Finish Line, along with sponsorship signage sports venues and events across the globe, will continue. This means TV exposure and lots of it. So while Adidas may have the tools to survive without TV ads, most mid- to large-sized brands don't have the same arsenal. The message here is to continually reevaluate and readjust media spending to be more creative about where brand exposure can deliver maximum impact.

Maybe Adidas will make good on its threat to abandon TV advertising, but I doubt it'll last. Despite what some may say, we all still believe in the power of TV as part of a media mix. Meantime, TV will keep evolving as a marketing channel. Adidas and other brands can't afford to skip that race.

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