Why Adidas' Video Player May Fare Better Than Bud's

Adidas.TV Doesn't Have That Pesky Age-Verification Problem, for One

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- It didn't work out real well for Anheuser-Busch, but can a branded online TV channel help cure what ails Adidas?

The footwear giant, which has been bleeding market share to rival Nike in recent years, launched a beta version of Adidas.TV on its basketball website last week. The player is designed to encourage Hulu-style sharing and can be embedded in blogs and other social-networking sites via an Adidas-branded video-player module.

Adidas launched a beta version of Adidas.TV on its basketball website.
Adidas launched a beta version of Adidas.TV on its basketball website.
That's a key difference from Bud.TV, which officially shut down last night. That site was hamstrung from the start by age-verification restrictions that prevented most of its videos from achieving the sort of viral buzz A-B had in mind. When they announced plans for Bud.TV, A-B executives said they ultimately hoped to draw more than 2 million unique visitors per month. But, six months later, the site was drawing so little traffic that it often didn't even register with tracking services such as ComScore.

Learning from A-B's missteps
Calls to two Adidas spokeswomen were not returned, but the marketer's online-video entry seems to apply lessons from A-B's missteps. It's built for sharing, and, of course, it has no age-verification issues to wrestle with.

Beyond that, sports content has a long record of creating online frenzies. A Nike video of Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho lacing up new sneakers and performing jaw-dropping tricks with a soccer ball has drawn more than 27 million YouTube views, for instance, making it one of the most-watched online videos ever. Adidas, with its large stable of superstar-athlete endorsers, including Orlando Magic Dwight Howard, who stars in the effort's first video, likely has something similar in mind.

The initial videos on the player, which was created by digital agency EVB, San Francisco, feature Mr. Howard and other Adidas NBA endorsers showing off various Adidas-branded wares.

'Creates a good hub'
Jon Cohen, co-founder of Cornerstone, a branding and entertainment agency that helped Nike match Pharrell, Santogold and the Strokes' Julian Casablancas with Converse, said Adidas.TV was a good distribution maneuver for the company. "It creates a good hub for them to showcase nontraditional content and gives them a platform to establish the off-court personality of their athletes," he said.

While Mr. Cohen said he doesn't expect the project to yield "Hulu-like numbers," he added, "The success will depend on how strong their content offering is."

Adidas is generally seen as having been outmaneuvered in the digital space -- and virtually everywhere else -- by Nike in recent years. The 2008 U.S. results for both companies bear that out: Nike-brand sales climbed 9%, and Nike-owned sibling Jordan Brand and Converse each saw 13% increases, according to SportsOneSource. Adidas sales, by contrast, fell 16%.

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