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Inside Adidas' sportswear domination in India

Adidas Indian marketing head Sean Van Wyk: "We aim to create a brand desire in our consumers to engage with them'

Indian sportswear market recorded a 22% growth in 2015/2016 and by 2020, it is expected to grow at 12% CAGR, according to Euromonitor's report. It is mainly dominated by four global brands namely Adidas, Reebok, Nike and Puma.

As reported by Financial Express, Adidas India recorded the highest ever profit from a single financial year by clocking almost INR 95 crore in the financial year ending March 2017, which made it the leading brand in the sportswear market in India.

The Drum spoke with Sean Van Wyk, senior marketing director of the Adidas brand in India, to find out what makes Adidas as the number one sportswear brand in India.

He explains: "Adidas sees itself very much as the creator sports brand. Its a combination of things that makes Adidas as great as it is. So currently there is no denying that we have an unbelievable global momentum for the brand. India is able to enjoy that as well. And what's creating a lot of heat and momentum for Adidas right now is its products. All our products have got amazing innovation, fantastic technologies and the best product frankly in the market right now. We also believe that we are a brand which is closest to the consumer."

"We really understand the consumer and therefore, we also bring them what they want. That's also the way we communicate with our consumers. We understand the way they are consuming content and pinpointing that and reaching there where consumption takes place. Also, our stores have an unbelievable stores execution both for our performance brand and the originals brands. The creative concept is what sets us really apart. The in-store execution that we do, the human journey when they enter our stores and go through the stores, our sales people along with the marketing mix is what's making the brand great."

According to Van Wyk, there is not just one overarching, specific feature of Adidas' marketing strategy in India. He believes it is the combination of doing everything right.

"Be it product, store format, digital execution and activation, our aim is to excite our customers. We engage with consumers on two levels - one is on a brand level which involves how to create brand desire and secondly, giving customers the reason to love and buy our products," he adds.

In India, with TV touted to account for more than half of daily media consumption, Adidas faces a close competition from Puma in the Indian market.

Asked how important TV is to the whole marketing mix, Van Wyk says: "Every element is important to us but some elements are used specifically to some campaigns while some elements are more specific to certain categories. For example football where we know the Indian customer is consuming a lot of English Premier League, Spanish League etc. and that could be a great area to advertise on TV. However that doesn't mean that TV is the key or the solution to every category."

Adidas boasts having most popular sportsperson on board as of now, namely Indian cricketer KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and previously had Indian cricket team captain, Virat Kohli, all who have large following on social media. Van Wyk says that Adidas recognises the biggest social media platforms right now.

"We understand that's where our target audience is active these days . We have a very short focus on our digital push. We use platforms such as YouTube, Instagram as paid platforms. We create content and post them to reach our target audience. We also use our influencers and brand ambassadors with the significant social media followers to see and propagate our brand and our brand," he explains.

"We see social media as platforms where we can drive the most amount of intelligence about the consumers from Facebook so we have different forms of communications for Facebook. We see Twitter as a daily news medium where we can amplify our events and have real time conversations with our consumer. Instagram is a very heavy visual media while we see Snapchat as one of the thing that is very inherent to the brand. Adidas is a creator brand and that's what Snapchat is. We are the first brand to actually start advertising our brand on Snapchat in India."

Sponsorship has long been one of the brand's key marketing platforms and Adidas currently sponsors kabbadi team Maratha Warriors and Indian Super League football team FC Pune City.

As to what Adidas looks for for in a sponsorship package in this day and age where placing a logo somewhere is no longer enough, Van Wyk says: "Sponsorship has evolved beyond placing logo, I agree. You pay for your involvement but then its really about how you activate the property you are involved in which is very critical because you need to make sure you have set enough money aside to activate it properly. There is no use in owning a property if you don't use it appropriately i.e. to its maximum. Adidas is now trying to create its own property."

"So as opposed to be another sponsor of any event with other brands, we think there is more value for us to create our own property and then to continue to build on that property and own that property. Be it our association with Parley and Run for the Oceans. Its a property that Adidas own and its something that we continue to invest in and continue to build. We aim to be synonymous with that so that's certainly the way forward."

The biggest highlight of 2017 in the Indian sports realm was the Fifa U-17 World Cup. Adidas, which has been a long time Fifa sponsor, was one of the global sponsors for the event and it showcased the growing popularity of football ahead of event in India.

Reflecting on the event, Van Wyk says: "Fifa U-17 world cup was a resounding success. Adidas benefited hugely and the brand got an amazing exposure and traction during this period. We actually did some research around what consumers mindset was and keywords they were associating with Fifa U-17 and Adidas came out strongly. It came out as strongly as the word football.

"We also believe that aside from that, its going to be an amazing springboard for football in India. We already see the football category enjoying good growth and participation especially with the youth. So football is one sport we see growing rapidly in India in terms of participation."

Adidas continues to intensify its operations in India, with Adidas Originals opened its first ever Originals Fashion Destination Door (OFDD) recently. Adidas also has a running community and organises its event Adidas Uprising to encourage people to take a sport.

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