In Berlin, it takes three years to paint a zebra crossing on the street. For a decade, people have been trying to build an airport here, but in the same city it took just a few years to turn the small start-up Zalando into one of Europe’s largest fashion retailers.
The city’s appeal rests on some stable foundations which aren’t easily destroyed: the unique cultural offer, the wonderful old apartments – now expensive but still cheaper than in Paris or London – the intellectual openness, the flair from all over the world, the aura.
“Berlin is one of the most stimulating cultural centers in Europe”, Time Magazine once wrote… and they’re right.
Night after night, adventurous tourists wander through the bars of Neukölln and Friedrichshain. Berlin, the playground for the international hipster circus.
Berlin isn’t just about the party
But Berlin is also a sporty city, with more than 600,000 Berliners doing sports regularly.
At any time – night or day – you see runners in any of the countless parks, whilst the Berlin Marathon and the adidas Runners City Night attract thousands of athletes from all over the world.
More than 140,000 players are registered at local football clubs and the neighborhoods are full of cages. In Berlin, the slogan “from the stadium to the streets” is lived 365 days a year.
Starting the fire
For adidas, Berlin is a testing lab for how to stand out as a brand in the age of overcommunication. There is a constant struggle between brands to win the attention of the consumer. The city is full of billboards, parties and events. Full of sports clubs, running groups, gyms. There’s just a constant noise.
Only a few years ago, we tried to be even louder to make our messages be heard. If Berlin was a company, then it felt like it had three stripes for a weekend, we had billboards out there and a huge Marathon expo booth – and after the weekend we were already gone again, without leaving anything behind.
There was no chance to build a sustainable relationship with the consumer. We’ve since learnt from this and we’ve changed – or let’s say, rebooted – our approach. Instead of colorful fireworks, which are nice to look at but quickly forgotten, we now let a constant fire burn. Instead of aiming for reach without substance, we build relationships with meaning.
Talking and listening are key to building bridges
One of the places that perfectly embodies our renewed connection with our consumers is the Football BASE in the working-class district of Wedding. Some years ago, when adidas Football was perceived as completely uncool in the capital, we asked the kids of Berlin what their ideal place to play football would look like.
Created in collaboration with these kids, the BASE brought us a football venue that is second to none. The perfect place to bring footballers together with our products and create positive experiences with the brand at numerous events and launches.
Since its conception, BASE hasn’t only become a key part of Berlin’s sports culture, it’s also taken over the role of a “Youth Club 2.0” in the problem district Wedding, helping kids to learn values and skills that will help them on and off the field. In their game, life, world.
Supporting runners and communities alike
Another of our constant fires is the RUNBASE in the Kreuzberg district. Surrounded by trendy pubs and nightclubs, and very close to the running hotspots of Treptower and Görlitzer Park, urban athletes will find everything they need for their sport in the RUNBASE.
Courses and coaches are available to help with running technique, functional training, yoga, pilates. Free showers, healthy eating, co-working spaces and much more. It’s a place where the people of Berlin can develop as athletes and as personalities. A place that is the starting point for a long-term relationship between the brand and the sports lover.
This is why, over the last couple of months, we’ve opened the adidas Playgrounds. Across seven locations in Berlin, athletes find 110 sqm of outdoor gyms as the perfect complement to their running training. They’re also free and – not so unimportant in a big city – almost indestructible.
Generally speaking, Berliners are supercritical. There’s always something to complain about, and they are fundamentally skeptical about commerce and the perception of selling out. The best – and probably the only way – to win their sympathies is to help make living their lives in such an exciting city even better, even more exciting.
Playgrounds for all
Another honest contribution to the sports infrastructure of the German capital. In fact, adidas gave one euro for each km run through the adidas Runners community to build these parks. The community decided for themselves where the playgrounds were actually built. Basis democracy.
Again, the days of fast, loud, colorful brand fireworks are over for adidas in Berlin. For a long time now, it’s been about letting a warming fire burn, a fire where you meet, talk, tell stories and grow together. And no matter where we tell these stories – analog or digital – the personal connection, the reference to the life of the consumer is what creates an inspiring personal experience: the foundation of any true and meaningful relationship.