adidas Made For London (AM4LDN) hit the streets of the British capital earlier this month; the first in a series of individually designed and manufactured shoes tailored to a city and optimised for its athletes.

The magic behind this bespoke shoe was two-fold as our SPEEDFACTORY manufacturing facility brought to life the imagination, creativity and running needs of our city athletes and our greatest fans.

Our starting point was that in order to better understand our audience – their inspirations, their motivations, how their minds work and what drives their passions – we recognised that we needed to get closer to them. We needed to take the theory of the ‘Creator’ in our ‘Creating the New’ strategy and activate then our Open Source strategic choice by engaging with a select group who could provide a real-world representation of that audience.

Team up and get all your key players in the room

In March 2017, the adidas London Newsroom and Key City team collaborated with the Global Future team and Running BU to deliver a co-creation session designed to capture insights and ideation from a select group of specially chosen London influencers and Creators. Each attendee was selected based on their connection to the brand, their affinity for creation and design, as well as their passion for sport – in this case, running.

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Creating a shoe for London runners meant hitting the tarmac and the city’s running routes. ©2017 Travis Hodges
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Opening our technical toolbox and engineering expertise ensured immediate real-time product feedback from our co-creators. ©2017 Travis Hodges
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A lesson in materials choice and colourways for our London runners. ©2017 Travis Hodges
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Bringing a city lens and runner’s experience to the collaboration table. ©2017 Travis Hodges
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Our focus going into the workshop was on building a line-up of Creators that offered a diversity, energy and creativity that represented the essence of London. These guys were not traditional runners and they weren’t all from the same background or profile. We invited runners, personal trainers, journalists, YouTubers and yoga instructors to take part in the session, as we wanted a truly rounded view of our London Creator audience and plenty of variety to ensure the creative process was authentic. Running unified them as a shared passion, but it didn’t define them. Our line-up included leading male fitness and running influencer Bradley Simmonds, two of our adidas Runners London captains, Claudia Schroegel and Shakira Akabusi, as well as Kieran Alger, a leading consumer technology journalist and passionate ultramarathon runner.

Open your playbook and share something special

In simple terms, our plan was to create an experience that educated the Creators on how the design and production process works. Education is sometimes perceived as a boring word, but for me, this gave the Creators some genuine and unique insights into areas of the brand they would never typically be able to access and reinforced the key messages of the SPEEDFACTORY project – speed, innovation and co-creation.

The game plan for the day was to provide structure to the session to ensure we covered all of the creative design discussions and the product testing elements but to not make the schedule too rigid and restrictive. We didn’t want to create a classroom, we wanted this to feel like a workshop where the Creators can be playful and experiment alongside expert advice and input from our product designers.

Across two days the workshop session removed those traditional barriers around product development, ideation and design as areas typically developed behind closed doors and instead opened up the whole creative process to our Creators.

Listen to the passions and insights of your fans

From design and styling through to test simulations with prototype footwear, it was a truly immersive experience and very much brought to life the SPEEDFACTORY philosophy of always testing and constantly evolving based on insight.

Knowledge sharing was very much a two-way dialogue, allowing our Creators to truly influence a process that would ultimately deliver a product to market that they had co-created.

In many ways this session represented the future of the sports industry; breaking down the barriers that exist between brands and their consumers by embracing the insight and knowledge that our Creators have and instead viewing them as a potential resource rather than something to be kept on the outside. Many of the guys we involved shared an affinity for adidas that rivalled most of us who have worked for the brand for years! That passion was a true virtue and a great opportunity in a crowded marketplace where every brand aims to command the loyalty of that same Creator audience.

Overall this project reinforced the realisation that when we are brave enough to bring our Creators into the brand and allow them to create, we actually unlock ideas that we could perhaps never have achieved on our own.

Do you have experience of co-creating with your biggest fans? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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