Adidas looks outside Leagas Delaney for Coke-style "stable of creative talent"

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HERZOGENAURACH, Germany -- International sportswear marketer Adidas-Salomon AG is for the first time in five years looking outside its AOR Leagas Delaney, London, for new creative talent as it attempts to cut a swathe through conventional sportswear advertising.

Following the style of Coca-Cola Co, where he was European advertising director until August last year, Adidas Global Advertising Director Neil Simpson said he's aiming to create a "stable of creative talent, within which Leagas Delaney would be the lead agency and the largest."

The move is necessitated by a planned increase in the company's estimated $40 million global advertising budget next year, in line with brand growth, and Leagas Delaney's insufficient size to handle it. So far, the agency has offices in London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and San Francisco.

Mr. Simpson will be seeing five agencies - two in London, the others in Spain, France and Holland - over the next few months, which will present to a formal brief. He's looking not for international clout, but international insight and perspective and "mold-breaking creative ideas," and will be making a decision in the last quarter of the year, with plans for first ads early in 1999.

Bruce Haines, managing director of Leagas Delaney, said he's been given written assurance that "the agency's position is unaltered." Mr. Simpson confirmed: "We're happy with what the agency is's one of the best in the world."

Any new agencies - one or two are likely to be chosen - will work on international projects that could run everywhere in the world except for the U.S., where Leagas Delaney, San Francisco, will remain the sole creative resource. Separate reviews are also going on in Japan and Australia.

Mr. Simpson added, however, that "if no-one lives up to our high criteria, we'll stay as we are. I haven't confirmed we'll be adding any agencies."

The challenge now for Adidas' advertising, which the company believes has contributed largely to the brand's turnaround since 1993, is to break free from the norm in sportswear and establish itself as an "authentic, classic and generic brand" in the category, such as Levi's or Coke in their own sectors, Mr. Simpson believes.

Nike has developed the ad style for the sector, he acknowledged. "But if we follow in their slipstream, that's just fuel for them. We want to step apart and put some anchors down and, if we can capture that [generic brand] territory, we'll no longer be subject to the fashion sways which have affected this category in the past."

Media, currently through Initiative Media and a combination of Leagas Delaney and Creative Media in the U.S., is unaffected.

Adidas' first Global Media Manager, Jason Dawes, joined from Zenith Media, London, this month and its first Global Advertising Manager, Matt Stiker, arrived from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., a few months ago.

Revenue for the Adidas Group (not including Salomon) was up 38% in the first quarter of 1998 over the same period in 1997. Sales in 1997 were $3.7 billion and pretax profits were $378 million.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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