Imagine the following situation: You are a brand or even a leading brand with a product range that is well established. If you want to advance your business, what do you do?
a) Work on continuously improving the existing product portfolio.
b) Same as a), but freshen it up with some additional products.
c) Kill the entire existing product portfolio and create something from scratch.
If you chose a) and b): You are opting for a slow but steady evolution. In fact, many brands go down that route, because it’s safe. This strategy might keep you afloat for a couple of years. The question is how much longer, because step-by-step evolution can be the direct road to boredom. Once you are down that road it is only a question of time before somebody else with more courage shows up and takes the lead for good.
If you chose c): Surprising move, some might even say risky!
Nevertheless, option c) is exactly what we did in football. In a video, Leo Messi, Thomas Müller, Luis Suárez and Oscar announced the end of the existing on field adidas football boot silos. This included boots such as the f50, the 11Pro, the Nitrocharge and the legendary Predator. The latter was worn by David Beckham throughout his career.
From technology to consumer obsession
Turning the football business upside down was not an easy sell at the beginning, reports Markus Baumann, General Manager Football:
This reaction did not come unexpectedly. After all, it’s hard work to make products last over a long time span in the fast-paced fashion and sporting goods industry we are in. So why kill them?
Because it was the right thing to do to start a revolution in football and it is not as risky as it appears at first glance. In the past years, adidas Football pretty much took an inside-out view. Technical product innovation was the main focus. Going forward, we found that complementing technology expertise with an outside-in view helps us to lead in football on all levels. Here is what we have taken into account:
The game of football has changed
According to top coaches such as Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho, modern professional football teams nowadays only need two types of player on the pitch. Positions, traits and attributes that mattered before are irrelevant now:
The so-called game changers defy rules and structure. The moment of genius that gets the crowd off their seat is their speciality. There is no defence and no tactic that can control them. Thomas Müller, Gareth Bale, Luis Suárez, Karim Benzema and Álvaro Morata strike without a moment’s notice. For them, adidas has created X15.
The playmakers bring the coach’s plans into action. They are the ones that pull the strings and set the pace. Every great team needs the players that keep it on track and control the game. Players such as Mesut Özil, James Rodríguez, Oscar, Manuel Neuer and Ivan Rakitić are the glue of some of the world’s best teams. For these players, adidas has designed ACE15.
From the stadium to the street
The megatrend of urbanization pays into the focus on fewer player types instead of traditional positions.
Two simple reasons for this development are the deep involvement of consumers within their urban communities and the lack of space within the ever growing cities – people don’t go elsewhere, but play where they live and when it fits into their daily routine.
After all, it’s much easier to round up friends for a two vs two or five vs five game in the backyard than 22 on the green. In small-sided football, traditional positions have always been obsolete due to the reduced number of players. What counts is flexibility or in other words what you bring to the game: a playmaker or game-changer mentality.
Emotional drivers become more important
Not only has the game of football changed, but also consumers. To understand the drivers of their behaviour better, we have partnered with a US-based university for a profiling method based on neuro-scientific research. We found that rational drivers such as technology are still important to consumers to increase performance. In addition, they are increasingly looking to brands to connect with them in a more emotional way. Their status within their peer group plays an important role in how they choose products. Brands that manage to gauge who a consumer really wants to be and how he or she wants to feel, will emerge as the winners.