With China’s reopening, Adidas is making its comeback through a strategic partnership with the China Federation of Literary & Art Circles and appointing actor Chen Xiao as the ambassador of its campus program.
CEO of Adidas, Bjørn Gulden, calls 2023 “A year of transition to put the pieces back together again.” China is a vital piece of that puzzle, and the German sportswear brand is undergoing a strategic re-focus aimed at forging deeper local connections with young Chinese consumers.
Amid the COVID-19 disruptions and the rising guochao (national tide) fervor that fueled the growth of homegrown sportswear brands, Adidas saw a decline in its Greater China revenue for six consecutive quarters. Nevertheless, as China recovers from the pandemic, this could be the ideal moment for the brand to stage a comeback with its thoughtfully-crafted China narrative.
Adidas charts its China comeback with actor Chen Xiao
True to its brand message, “Impossible is Nothing,” Adidas has been gearing up with a revived China strategy that doubles down on localization initiatives to position the brand: “In China, for China.” Hoping to win over China’s powerful Gen Z consumers and ride the Guochao wave, Adidas intends to demonstrate a deep understanding and respect for Chinese traditional culture and integrate into China’s sporting culture at a grassroots level.
“Adidas must insist on younger products, younger consumer experience, younger brand marketing, younger community empowerment, and younger team talents; only in this way can Adidas stay younger,” says Adrian Siu, who took over the role of Adidas Greater China’s managing director from Jason Thomas last March.
Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of German-China diplomatic relations last November, Adidas signed a strategic alliance with the China Literature and Art Foundation, an organization affiliated with the China Federation of Literary & Art Circles (CFLAC) that promotes Chinese culture and traditional values. It’s a shrewd move to align the brand at a diplomatic level, marrying culture, sport and design.
The three-year partnership includes a series of charity and university programs and cultural activities under the banner “Century Masters.” Adidas will pay tribute to those who have made outstanding contributions to Chinese sports and education in the 21st century and share these stories with a wider audience.
In return, the partnership gives Adidas cultural credibility and access to China’s artistic talent pool. Crucially, it will also enable Adidas to develop formative relationships with 18 to 22-year-olds through this new university program. The aim of this program is to take activities and resources into 10,000 schools around the country annually to promote Chinese sports culture and inspire youth with its famous “Impossible is Nothing” spirit.