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Decathlon decoded: inside world’s biggest sports retailer as it rebrands and refocuses


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

March 19, 2024 | 8 min read

The Drum heads to Paris for a first look behind the scenes at the world’s largest sporting goods retailer’s massive rebrand, which spans strategy, design, internal culture and experiences.

Decathlon billboard with its new tagline

Decathlon campaign / AMV BBDO

Decathlon, the French sporting goods retailer with 2,080 stores worldwide, has undergone quite the overhaul, the past two years having been spent reinventing almost every aspect of its business.

There has been a slew of hires to its executive team (Barbara Martin Coppola from Ikea was named global chief executive officer in 2022), a new creative agency in AMV BBDO and an exciting new approach to its comms and overall design.

In a presentation to employees and the press in Paris last Tuesday, it unveiled its ‘Ready to Play?’ campaign tagline, a revamped logo, a new colorway (still blue, just a different shade) and an ad directed by Hector Dockrill, who has shot music videos for the likes of Lewis Capaldi and Jorja Smith.

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As the brand baits people to play, the real question is: why now? “I don’t think there is ever a perfect time,” says Celine Del Genes, who is Decathlon’s global chief customer officer. “We knew that we needed to amplify and evolve our customer experience. We are well known as a retailer, but we want to be more than a retailer.”

To make these ambitions come to fruition, Decathlon enlisted global brand consultancy Wolff Olins to streamline its portfolio of 85 brands. The new position affirms Decathlon as a maker, not just a retailer, and includes a revitalized version of its iconic blue wordmark and introduces an updated one, dubbed ‘L’Orbit.’

For Decathlon, L’Orbit is an expression of the brand’s purpose, conveying movement and circularity, with a strong angle inspired by the original logo and a peak representing its connection to outdoor sporting activities.

Decathlon's new brand logo

A new shade of blue has been introduced, something that Wolff Olins' global executive creative director, Emma Barratt, knew she wanted to do from the beginning of the project. “Decathlon is a blue brand. It made no sense to move away from that.”

Decathlon has been around since 1976 and is the world’s largest sporting goods retailer, but in the apparel sector, where brands like Nike and Adidas dominate, it will need to do everything right if it wants to compete.

“For us, we needed not to just say it, but to actually do it,” says Del Genes. “Ultimately, it’s all in the actions. Sport is the same way; it’s about the results. We identified what we needed to do, which was to bring all the touch points together as one, which had not always been the case.”

It’s something that AMV BBDO’s executive creative director Laura Rogers echoes. She says Decathlon was at a “critical point in its lifecycle” and that the team needed to approach the campaign with a “global lens, sharing this point of view not just with Europe, not just with the people who already know the brand, but the entire world.”

Launching in 70 markets across the world, this new brand position will be the central focal point for each Decathlon activation going forward – something that in the past has varied from country to country.

Each store will get a makeover, kitted out with the redeveloped colorways and brand logo. The layout has shifted slightly and takes a more Ikea-approach, with each sport having its dedicated section.

Del Genes says that as the world evolves, the Decathlon brand has to as well. There’s a respect for what has come but an excitement for what the future holds. It’s a passion that is palpable from each colleague during the presentation, which also sees ambassador athletes such as Irish cyclist Sam Bennett and Olympic medallist judo athlete Teddy Riner take to the stage.

“The newness is bringing a fresh and new energy to our team,” Del Genes says, adding that there are many people who have been with Decathlon for decades and that sometimes change can be scary, especially when it’s outside their comfort zone, but that the way they have integrated the brand’s history and fundamental beliefs into this project has been vital.

“Our DNA is not changing, our values are not changing, our purpose about the movement and the accessibility of sports are not changing. So, when you don’t change your roots, then you can move beautifully and that’s what we’re doing.”

Decathlon ad

This sentiment is echoed in a hero 60-second film that mixes original and found footage. The short celebrates sport in an unpolished and relatable way.

In terms of who the brand is targeting, there is a more youthful approach with this iteration, but it’s not something that it focuses on. “Everyone is invited to come with us to visit our stores, our platform, our communities and to try on our products. There’s no age group or level of sports,” says Del Genes.

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The marketer has only been at Decathlon for seven months and says it has been such an exciting time to join, especially as the brand has never hosted such a huge event before (over 200 people are in attendance, with press from around the world). “This is the seed of what’s going to happen in years to come,” she says.

“I’m looking forward to continuing developing the brand platform – just like the journey of sports, brand platforms evolve, so it can’t stay static – and to being recognized no longer just as a sports retailer – and I say that with the utmost respect – but as a real sports brand for everyone, all sports, all levels, around the world.”

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