It’s here, it’s now.
Roland Garros , The French Open in Paris is going to be alive with some great, sporting action from 19th May – 7th June, and we at adidas, can’t help but feel the excitement!
I’m in the lucky position to be working as the Senior Director in the Tennis department, and as I sit here in Paris at the venue, all the passion that went on behind the scenes comes flooding in!
Pushing the boundaries of tradition
Tennis is a traditional and somewhat conservative sport.
Every Grand Slam has its own character, a certain vibe that Tennis fans around the world connect with the venue, its history and great champions.
With this being said, I always encourage my team to push boundaries.
“When we started planning our 2015 Roland Garros collection, I challenged my team to create something unexpected and fresh whilst still respecting the character and surroundings of Roland Garros.” Graham Williamson, Senior Director Tennis
I didn’t want to offer some kind of gimmick which wasn’t embedded within tennis – so the challenge here was to find new interpretations without ignoring principles when it comes to creating a new concept.
This time, we looked at the collection that our players will be wearing on court and merging the best of both worlds – pure performance and sophisticated style.
How? Read on…
Understanding the setting and the audience
We started by looking at the platform – the event itself – and what we wanted the concept to represent for adidas and the tennis category.
- Roland Garros is accessible to everyone. It’s prestigious, classy and has its own unique French style. It is a stage for the best athletes to play their best tennis.
- The court is also a catwalk and the perfect global stage to showcase exciting new concepts. Which other sport offers the opportunity to showcase stunning performance product on world-class athletes for extended time periods?
We decided to use these two points as the basis for our work.
Hunting for the perfect partner-in-crime
Our goal was clear – only the best for our athletes, whilst adding just the right touch of elegance and strength that the game of Tennis stands for.
After some thought, we knew we wanted a partner who could bring this vision to life together with us. The solution: an internal collaboration with none other than our long-time partner Y-3 and Yoji Yamamoto.
Y-3 perfectly fuses innovative style and performance, is elegant, prestigious and unique.
Each of these facets matched the characteristics of Roland Garros.
Opening up to different perspectives
Working with fashion-based colleagues has been different and challenging for our sports performance-focused team, but in a good way.
The Y-3 guys brought fresh perspectives and challenged pretty much every existing performance convention, seeing functional on-court product in a new and different way.
Honestly, when our designer first walked in and mentioned that we are going to have flowers on the shoe…
But that was the idea: to work with something unconventional and make the magic happen.
Once I saw the actual hand-printed Japanese motif, I knew this was it!
We managed to create a totally fresh and unique tennis visual – a perfect blend of performance and style.
Take risks, trust and take the leap for something bold
I still vividly remember presenting the initial concept along with the Y-3 guys to our partners, the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT).
To be honest we were late; however I had asked them to trust us, something bold and new was coming!
We pitched the concept at the Y-3 showroom in Paris, the atmosphere was tense with anticipation.
The models walked out, but I didn’t even look at them.
I was busy scanning the room to see the reaction on the faces of the FFT, and what a reaction it was!
Their jaws literally dropped to the ground.
For the remainder of the presentation, they just sat back and smiled at what they were seeing. We did too.
I think they knew it was a great opportunity for them to push existing boundaries, showcasing Roland Garros in a new, modern and progressive way.
“On our journey it was clear that to build a complete story, all of the parts had to come together into one big idea.”
Graham Williamson, Senior Director Tennis
Trying to land the product on its own without social media support, great PR, compelling event activation and a robust distribution was not going to work.
So far the collaboration has already delivered promising business numbers in addition to widespread media and influencer coverage.
I’m really proud of what the team has achieved – illustrating if you have a good idea which you can evolve, staying true to the sport, the stage, the athletes and to our brand, we can innovate and impact the game.