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Competitive instinct

As the official sportswear partner to the 2012 Olympics, the eyes of the world will be on Adidas. Nick Craggs is the man charged with making sure it achieves a winning result.

Come 27 July, 2012, and for 19 days at least you wonder whether you’ll see anyone who’s British wearing anything but Adidas. As the official sportswear partner of the London Olympics next year, the sportswear giant will design and produce the official performance kit for all Team GB athletes; ‘village’ wear for Team GB competitors; presentation suits; clothing for all officials; and outfits for the 70,000 volunteers. “Oh, and for the 8,000 torch relay runners, too,” adds Nick Craggs, Adidas marketing director, area north, who has overall responsibility for Adidas’s London 2012 project.

Adidas will also be trying its hardest to dress the general public in its iconic three-stripe logo, from now until well beyond London 2012.

Last year, the brand appointed British designer Stella McCartney as creative director of Adidas, Team GB, to oversee the design, with Adidas responsible

for the technical and performance elements of the Team GB lifestyle collection, which launched last September. The range is inspired by Team GB athletes’ sportswear, but with a fashion twist, including an inside-out hoodie and a gold trench-inspired jacket (as seen on this week’s front cover). The second collection will launch in May and retail prices range from £24 to £150.

In addition, Adidas launched a branded product range (that carries both the Adidas and London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games [LOCOG] logos) in September 2009 as well as event-branded products (designed and manufactured by Adidas but only carrying the LOCOG logo). The former, which retails from £18, is sold via Adidas’s own stores and traditional sportswear retailers, including JD and Sports Direct. The latter range, which includes casual T-shirts, is destined for souvenir and grocery stores, with retail prices starting from £12.

“It’s the biggest peacetime kitting-out exercise,” says Craggs. And while he will not put a figure on how much the partnership with London 2012 will add to Adidas’s bottom line, he says with confidence: “Any investment like this is expected to achieve a significant commercial return and [my goal] is to hit those direct targets.”

Listening to Craggs outline Adidas’s plans at the sportswear giant’s London head office in Covent Garden, there is a sense that LOCOG made a good choice in choosing Adidas as its official sportswear partner. And Craggs’ repeated, comforting phrase of “we’re pretty planned out” when referring to different stages of Adidas’s London 2012 project gives the impression of an organisation in strong shape.

A platform to shine

So LOCOG must be pretty pleased with itself; but why did Adidas want to pitch for the London 2012 partnership?

The reasons were threefold, says Craggs. “We wanted to protect and grow the sports category in the UK, as people are participating less in sports. It also gives us a platform to showcase our design, innovation and brand credentials, and finally it lets us maximise the commercial opportunities for Adidas and our retail partners.”

He adds: “The Olympic project is like a start-up; the only difference is that you know [from the outset] that it will eventually wind down after the Games.”

But even with a finite project, Adidas does not do things by halves and the brand has carefully planned its “start-up” strategy. “The key is to make sure the Olympic project is supplementary to the mainline while complementing it,” says Craggs. “The rest of the challenges are internal - the logistics around creating new [collections], factory capacity - but we always find a way.”

The top two floors of Adidas’s Covent Garden office in London are dedicated to the Olympics project and currently accommodate about 25 people across design, merchandising, marketing, sales, events and hospitality. The “full squad”, which includes logistics and operations, will take the figure to 150 in the run-up to the Games, not including the 40 or 50 working indirectly on the project at Adidas’s Stockport office. Craggs says that when the Games end, everyone will be moved to another part of the Adidas business - no one will lose their job. “That’s why people come here, for [career] development,” he says.

The whole process began in 2006 and Craggs’ approach since has been considered. “We’re not doing too much too soon because of the risk of oversupplying,” he says. “Sales accelerate with one year to go [before the Games], but it’s gradual. We’ll do a lot of volume close to the Games, with the majority of sales coming in the first two to three months in the run-up to and including the Games.”

Craggs says the design team - spearheaded by Dave Billington, head of London 2012 official licensed product - was briefed seven weeks ago to produce collections for the first and second quarter of next year. “We’ve already seen and reviewed the first CADs and now we’re waiting to see the first samples,” he explains. “By May and June, we’ll be speaking to the [wholesale] customers.”

Craggs says Adidas “has the flexibility” to react “if a big trend comes up” and that part of its partnership with LOCOG is the “requirement to produce short-lead product and replenishment”. Craggs admits he is looking at the possibility of overnight printing on T-shirts to record sports results as they happen. All London 2012 product will be produced at Adidas’s existing factories across the Far East (with a few in Europe), with overnight printing done in the UK.

Expect the unexpected

Product is arguably what will drive Adidas’s London 2012 success, says Craggs. “London 2012 wants the Gamesto be different [from previous Olympics], so they’re looking for a partner to bring the unexpected, hence Stella,”says Craggs. “[We] can’t deliver traditional licensed products.”

Craggs won’t be drawn on the details of next year’s collections - there will be one drop per month in 2012 - only to say that “sportswear is a broad category; it won’t be what people think will come from a sportswear brand”, when Drapers asks how sportswear-focused the clothing will be. As for best-sellers across the board, Craggs believes those will be graphic T-shirts and accessories.

With the exception of some pieces, which will be exclusive to the official Olympic Park retailer, The Retail People (see p24) - “because of the commercial opportunity for people to say: ‘I was there’,” says Craggs - the rest of the range will be available to Adidas’s 1,000-plus UK stockists. Asked if he would consider speaking to new, trend-led indie stockists rather than existing sports-oriented retailers to stock the London 2012 collections, Craggs replies: “Come and see us.”

He believes retailers have not got a handle on how big London 2012 could be for them and part of how Adidas will define its success relies on how retailers embrace this opportunity. “I want Adidas to be the most talked about brand during the Games, but I also want it to be a success for retailers - I want their experience of the Games to surpass their expectations,” he explains. “And I want a hell of a lot of Team GB gold medals.”

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