Adidas’ Super Bowl Week didn’t start with a party. It didn’t start with a product activation or with a spokesman navigating Radio Row.
Instead, it began at the National Center for Civil and Humans, smack in between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the start Black History Month.
Adidas helped support two panels at the museum, both hosted by Outsports founder Cyd Zeigler. The first explored how sports organizations, corporations, nonprofits and athletes can build inclusive environments in professional sports and included Adidas North America President Zion Armstrong, Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis and former NFL player Esera Tuaolo.
The second focused more on the NFL and the LGBTQ community with Falcons Assistant GM Scott Pioli, Vikings Vice President of Legal and Social Karin Nelson, 49ers Assistant Coach Katie Sowers and NBC Sports’ Peter King.
Behind the panelists stood images of civil rights legends Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King — along with Adidas logos. In the evening, Adidas supported Tuaolo’s second annual inclusion party.
“It’s events like these that help raise awareness, create dialogue and determine action to help our brand, consumers and society to conquer problems that still exist,” says Jeff McGillis, vice president of Adidas U.S. Sports.
This afternoon, @adidas hosted 2 “Hate is Wrong” inclusion panels from @Ctr4CHR w/ a group that included @greglouganis, @eseratuaolo, @scottpioli51, @peter_king, @KatieSowers and @CydZeigler, among others. Adidas will also host Tuaolo’s 2nd Annual Inclusion Party tonight. #SBLIII pic.twitter.com/uUkkO8g2sj
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) January 29, 2019
These events did not sell Adidas apparel, but instead, during the most scrutinized sports media week of the year, gave Adidas an identity.
In a similar manner, Adidas magnified a group of women consistently overlooked: football players. On Saturday morning, the brand partnered with Jen Welter to host a football camp for girls. Welter made waves in 2015 when she became the first woman to coach in the NFL, serving as a coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals during training camp and the preseason. This past December, Welter was named as a defensive specialist for the Atlanta Legends in the Alliance of American Football’s inaugural season.
While Welter ran the camp, Adidas also announced a multi-year partnership with Welter. As part of the deal, she will also co-host camps for underprivileged kids in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Dallas.
But it isn’t just about running camps. The partnership with Welter is meant to break new ground. Welter will help “explore new ways to increase access to the sport for young girls, including utilizing the camps to secure digital data from female athletes to help inform the future creation of Adidas women’s products.”
“As a brand, we believe that through sport, we have the opportunity to empower and change the lives of young girls, and together, we want everyone to have equal access to football,” McGillis says. “Our goal is to inspire women and help them perform better on the field while creating a product specifically designed for the elite performance of female athletes. Working with Jen helps achieve that mission.”
— adidas Football US (@adidasFballUS) February 2, 2019
Adidas, which launched its “She Breaks Barriers” campaign in December, showed off the hard evidence during Super Bowl Week with a one-of-one custom pair of “Adidas Made for Jen Welter” (AM4JM), the first women’s football cleat digitally created at SPEEDFACTORY USA in Atlanta.
Adidas has already come out with women’s-specific soccer cleat models, and the football equivalent might be on the way. Atlanta makes sense as a setting to launch such a concept as girls flag football took a leap this past year. The Atlanta Falcons and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation helped establish an experimental flag football season this year among Gwinnett County Schools. The final two games of the season took place the Thursday night before the Super Bowl inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
From an activation perspective, Adidas, as it has in past Super Bowl Weeks, created its own VIP lounge outside of the main hoopla of the Super Bowl Media Center and Radio Row. Adidas football stars such as Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Alvin Kamara, Von Miller, Dak Prescott and JuJu Smith-Schuster were among those who made appearances. But the lounge also hosted Aaron Judge and another notable non-football-playing Adidas partner.
Quavo was a fixture of Adidas’ Super Bowl Week, showing up at events and wearing Adidas gear. He also starred in Adidas’ “Only in Atlanta” digital video series, featuring the rapper and Adidas’ cast of NFL stars. With the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Adidas had arguably the city’s most recognizable modern star on its programming.
“Seeing the looks on the local high school players’ faces at [our] 7v7 football tourney when Quavo and Alvin Kamara walked in was priceless,” McGillis says. “It’s moments like that which really put things in perspective during the lead-up to Super Bowl LIII.”
Adidas’ most notable Super Bowl activation featured its partnership with Japanese lifestyle brand BAPE (A Bathing Ape). BAPE’s unique camouflage design was repurposed on adidas football footwear, apparel and equipment, providing a streetwear look between the lines. Adidas and BAPE launched the line at an Atlanta pop-up on Feb. 1, with the collection going live online and in stores on Feb. 2, the day before the Super Bowl.
— adidas Football US (@adidasFballUS) February 1, 2019
While Adidas bounced around with feel-good stories and product launches in Atlanta, McGillis reiterates the theme many apparel brands keep pushing as of late.
“For us, Super Bowl week was all about creating the unexpected,” he says. “#CreatorsUnite in Atlanta for Adidas. We brought the best in sport and culture together to cement our position as the ‘Creator Brand.’”
Innovation and progress — that was the name of the game for Adidas in Atlanta this year.