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Creating Performance Products with a Unique Sense of Purpose

adidas’ Football Manager Nick Craggs opens up on embracing innovative materials to create high performance products for the FIFA World Cup 2022™.

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The adidas Sustainability Series

Growing up in my corner of the world – the North of England – adidas and football were, and remain, a ubiquitous match. Trainers on the terraces or boots on the pitch, the 3-Stripes and the turf lines were inseparable. To stand as part of this deep connection between brand and sport would be something that felt impossibly significant as a young player wearing adidas football boots for the first time – and more significant still 23 years later as the General Manager of adidas Football. 

I recently had the privilege of cheering on my national team, England, as they competed in their first match at the FIFA World Cup 2022™ against Iran (we won!) We may have all different reasons for why we’re looking forward to the FIFA World Cup 2022™, but for me, it’s not just about who takes the cup home (England, of course), but also about coming together and escaping into football. Whether you’ve had a tough day or a challenging few years, football can bring collective joy like little else. 

Fully aligned with the foundations of our company

Our founder, Adi Dassler, once wrote that adidas should always bring something new to a World Cup or Olympics. I’m exceptionally proud that at this year’s FIFA World Cup, we continue that tradition through innovative materials and high-performance products together on football’s biggest stage.  

Adi Dassler inspects a shoe with cleats
True to the beliefs of our founder, we continue to deliver innovative products to our athletes so they can perform at their best.

Collectively, as one brand, we can take immense joy in seeing our performance products used by the national teams of Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and Wales, at the FIFA World Cup 2022™. We all know that the fashion industry has been reliant on plastics for a long time and is a significant contributor to waste, and sport should take equal responsibility.  

To counter this, the adidas sustainability teams have been working to address the role we play by exploring ways of creating more product with a smaller environmental footprint, by looking more closely at the materials and processes we use. And doing so without compromising on quality or performance. 

Since I joined adidas in 1999, we’ve pioneered a lot of great material innovations to reduce the environmental footprint of our products and that’s something we continue to do to this very day.  

Football apparel made with recycled materials

With performance and sustainability as a top priority, a consistent design approach has been taken across the kits that showcases both creativity and iconic simplicity, enabling players to be the best versions of themselves on the pitch. All of our kits feature recycled polyester, continuing adidas’ ongoing commitment to help end plastic waste. The yarn of the authentic kits for Argentina, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Spain contains 50% Parley Ocean Plastic a yarn that is made with plastic waste intercepted on remote islands, beaches, coastal communities, and shorelines preventing it from polluting our oceans. 

Three football players walk together side-by-side .
The German team’s FIFA World Cup kit, featuring recycled polyester.

At the same time, I can guarantee that the apparel will serve its purpose. For this year’s FIFA World Cup, each shirt features the latest in adidas fabric innovations, including lightweight, heat-applied details. The kits for Argentina, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Spain are constructed using materials and textures to help keep players feeling cool and comfortable with HEAT.RDY technology by maximizing air flow. What makes it so special in my opinion is, that this is the first time in which we have combined the use of Parley Ocean Plastic with HEAT.RDY.   

High performance footwear without using virgin polyester

The football boots that I used to wear years ago are no comparison to the adidas X Speedportal, which we created for this year’s FIFA World Cup. Once upon a time, football boots felt worlds apart from sustainability, as though we could only ever have one or the other, but that’s all changing. With the adidas X Speedportal, we’ve made a boot without using any virgin polyester for the first time ever.  

Close-up of a soccer boot.
adidas boots made in part with recycled materials.

This product represents just one of our solutions to help end plastic waste. What I especially love about these shoes is that they support instant reactions with a springy, full-length Carbitex carbon plate on their firm ground outsole. The laceless, foot-hugging adidas PRIMEKNIT upper includes EVA inserts on the inside and a lightweight carbon heel lock on the outside to keep you stable during light-speed play.  

A World Cup ball using only water-based inks and glues

After extensive research, testing, and development, we created the ‘Al Rihla’ World Cup ball, which translates to ‘The Journey’ in Arabic. Can you imagine that this is already the 14th successive ball that adidas has created for the FIFA World Cup? Big shout out to the teams involved.  

The ball features new innovations to unlock this level of performance, a new 20-piece panel shape, and with the environment in mind, it is the first FIFA World Cup ball made using only water-based inks and glues.  

The Al Rihla soccer ball is missing a panel to show the digital technology inside.
The first FIFA World Cup ball to feature connected ball technology.

In addition, 20% of the outer shell is made with recycled polyester. Supporting the very highest game speeds, it travels faster in flight than any other FIFA World Cup ball we have ever created. This proves once again that we do not compromise on quality or performance. 

So, whether it’s a pair of football boots, our jerseys or even the ball the teams are kicking around, there is one thing for sure: I’m proud to be a part of showing that creating products with sustainable innovations, materials, and manufacturing methods doesn’t mean making concessions when it comes to their performance. 

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