How Adi Dassler’s Unconventional Approach Built a Global Brand
Listen, test and modify may only be three simple words, but for decades they have played a huge role in the world of product creation at adidas. Find out why.
Trust is good; quality control is better. When it comes to products released into the world for millions to use, you don’t just throw them on the market and hope for the best. And especially not in the area of sports where one tenth of a second can make the difference between a gold medal and a devastating loss, and where every inch can play a crucial role between
At adidas, creating and providing the best equipment for every athlete is the one key principle that drives the product developers, just as was true for the brand’s founder Adi Dassler. This principle is based on a very simple but brilliant three-word concept: listen, test, modify. Listen to the needs of the athletes and incorporate their feedback and ideas into product development. Test the products as extensively and realistically as possible. Modify whatever details turn out to be not ideal. Over and over again until good is best.
There are many stories about Adi, about his way of working very closely with the athletes and coming up with product solutions that sometimes were unconventional but usually very effective.
Adi Dassler’s 'soap opera'
Like the one from the late 1960s referred to as “the soap opera”: Back then, the introduction of the synthetic track marked a quantum leap for track and field in terms of new records but at the same time caused many injuries because in wet conditions the surface became very slippery. In order to find a solution for the slipperiness, Adi Dassler experimented with different materials and new designs and came up with the idea of incorporating suction cups on the outsole of the track and field shoes.
Then, in the spring of 1971, it was time for the ultimate testing of his newly developed shoes. Adi invited three top German athletes (Kurt Bendlin, Heide Ecker-Rosendahl and Günther Nickel) to the tennis court behind his home, watered down the synthetic surface, added soap powder and asked the athletes to start running. The tests turned out to be a great success. Heide Ecker-Rosendahl went on to become a double Olympic gold medal winner at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games shortly afterwards.
Adi Dassler's Soap Opera
The story of Germany’s Achilles tendon
Then there is the story about Germany’s football legend Uwe Seeler: In February 1965, he tore his Achilles tendon and it looked like not only his career was over but also Germany’s dreams of winning the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England. Enter Adi.
The shoemaker created a custom-made shoe with added padding at the heel and additional laces in the crucial area to protect Uwe Seeler’s tendon and, on September 26th, 1965, Uwe Seeler scored that all-important goal against Sweden for a 2-1 victory, securing Germany’s ticket to the World Cup.
The result of the actual tournament and the famous goal at the final in Wembley are well known…
The list of stories and product innovations goes on and on across a wide range of sports and various glorious victories – from track and field and boxing to rowing, fencing and football – from Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games or Muhammad Ali’s Madison Square Garden fight in 1970 to the “Miracle of Bern” and the famous screw-in studs that secured a game-changing Football World Cup title for Germany.
All these examples fittingly express the work and dedication Adi put into creating products. His values, thankfully, have passed the test of time.
Bringing an old recipe for success to perfection
Today, adidas has much better technology and advanced research facilities at its disposal, as well as faster ways to communicate with athletes in every corner of the world, but the idea is still the same: listen, test and modify. The extensive and often time-consuming research and testing in the state-of-the-art labs of the adidas Innovation Team, the close and constructive discussions and feedback rounds between adidas Sports Marketing and professional athletes around the globe and the dedication of every single product manager are important and necessary steps an adidas performance product has to go through before it meets the world.
This goes for the latest running innovations such as BOOST, the fastest sprint spike adizero, which is constantly tested by athletes to keep making it better, lighter and faster, or the latest technologies to keep you cool such as ClimaChill, which has been tested rigorously in extreme temperatures to successfully reinvent performance cooling.
The latest and currently most prominent example of these high-quality standards is brazuca. The Official Match Ball of the 2014 FIFA World Cup was developed in close collaboration with some of the best footballers around the world and has gone through various rounds of extensive testing to ensure that it is the perfect ball for all conditions.
Watch how the adidas mantra ”listen, test, modify” was applied for brazuca.
To get more personal insights into what it takes to make the World Cup happen click here.
The expectation to create something special goes for every adidas performance product. So, in the next few weeks, when you see brazuca on your TV screen, don’t think of it as a football like any other, but think of it as what it is, what every 3-Stripes performance product should be: a product that went through an extensive programme of listen, test and modify to finally earn its stripes. All three of them.