Adidas Monday detailed three pillars of its turnaround after five bad years in the United States: Speed, Key Cities, and Open Source. The news came as it also reported North American sales rose in the first quarter this year, after dropping that much a year ago, outpacing growth at competitors Under Armour and Nike.
The company is working on a comeback after losing its No. 2 athletic apparel retailer spot to Under Armour in 2014. Adidas first introduced the three pillar strategy in 2015, but further details were provided on Monday.
Meanwhile, Mark King, CEO of Adidas’s U.S. unit, trash-talked Under Armour, telling Yahoo Finance that its rival’s roster of athletes are “milquetoast” and that, by contrast, Adidas athletes are not just superb at their games but also have unique and compelling personalities.
Like Under Armour founder-CEO Kevin Plank, Adidas’ new U.S. CEO is known for his swagger, on display in Yahoo Finance’s account of its interview with him.
“I think most of the athletes at Under Armour are kind of milquetoast,” King said, according to the report, using a particularly scathing word for any athlete, considering that it means “bland, weak or meek.”
“Spieth, Brady, hey, they are great athletes, but when you talk about Carlos Correa and James Harden and some of these guys that have personality and really stand for being an individual, that’s unique positioning for us,” King told Yahoo Finance. “So yeah, there are competitors and they all have their own way; our way is finding athletes that see themselves as creators.”
That’s an echo of one of the three pillars that Adidas outlined this week seeking to drive innovation and creativity through collaborative efforts with a wide range of partners. With "Speed," Adidas is looking to overhaul its production, sourcing, and supply chain, shorting the time between product creation and the store. "Key Cities" means a focus on urban areas in general and specifically Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo, where the company said it would double its business in the next five years. And "Open Source" includes collaborations with “athletes, creatives, consumers and other partners to help shape the future of sport and sports culture."
Adidas last month announced it is expanding its relationship with hip-hop star and fashion designer Kanye West with a co-branded effort dubbed “adidas + KANYE WEST” that the company calls “a Yeezy branded entity creating footwear, apparel and accessories for all genders across street and sport.” The German sportswear maker described the deal as "the most significant partnership ever created between a non-athlete and an athletic brand.”
“Kanye is a true creator who has the ability to see things others don't. We are excited and honored to build on this partnership, and eagerly look forward to defining the future together,” Eric Liedtke, adidas board member responsible for global brands, said in a statement.