December 3, 2008 / 11:49 PM / 10 years ago

Adidas ads feature musicians but not their music

NEW YORK (Billboard) - In the summer of 1986, hip-hop pioneers Run-D.M.C. played a show at Madison Square Garden in New York, riding high on the success of their single “My Adidas” and their third album, “Raising Hell.”

Singer Katy Perry performs on NBC's "Today" show in New York August 29, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Daryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels remembers it well.

“I would take off my sneaker and hold it up and say, ‘Myyyy Adidas,’ and then people would do it back,” he says, adding that “the people at Adidas couldn’t understand why the sales of shell toes were going through the roof.”

An Adidas marketing executive was in the audience at the Garden show, so it wasn’t long before the company signed the group to a $1.5 million endorsement deal, its first with a music act.

Two decades after its initial foray into music marketing, Adidas has launched a new global ad campaign for its Adidas Originals line of footwear and apparel that features 11 recording stars, including McDaniels.

The campaign, created by the agency Sid Lee in Montreal, depicts music acts like Katy Perry, Estelle, Missy Elliott and the Ting Tings dancing and laughing at a house party in Adidas gear. Besides starring in the TV spots, the musicians will appear online and in print ads.

In an unusual move, none of the TV ads uses any of the featured artists’ music. Instead, the spots are accompanied by Pilooski’s remix of Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons’ “Beggin’.”

Licensing songs from the artists featured in the ad campaign would have proved expensive. But Adidas spokesman Jeff Weinstein insists that financial considerations weren’t a factor in the company’s decision not to use the artists’ songs.

“We didn’t want to single out one musician,” Weinstein says. “We wanted to keep it neutral and focus on celebrating the musicians’ style and originality ... It was purely a creative decision.”


Does it make sense to feature musicians in an ad campaign without featuring their music?

Cyrus Vantoch-Wood, creative director at digital ad agency Atmosphere BBDO in New York, thinks that, in this case, it does.

“It’s (using Pilooski) as a way to connect a whole set of musicians under one anthem,” he says. “You couldn’t exactly do a mash-up of all of them.”

Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group in Voorhees, New Jersey, says Adidas’ decision to use musicians without their music suggests that the company is getting more out of the campaign than the stars.

“It’s great for Adidas and bad for musicians because it shows who has the power in the relationship,” Wells says. “It used to be that any time musicians were integrated into advertising, it was another avenue for them to promote their music. Being in the campaign this way puts a lot of power in the ad agencies’ and brands’ hands.”

Regardless of what one might think of the new Adidas Originals campaign, the company’s marketing executives clearly have been doing something right.

Through the years, Adidas has long been a brand of enduring appeal among performers, which have name-checked it in dozens of songs, such as House of Pain’s 1992 song “Put on Your S—t Kickers” (“I got the shell-toed Adidas, with the fat strings”), Gang Starr’s 1994 track “Suckas Need Bodyguards (“Since the days of Adidas, I’ve been a true master”) and Lady Sovereign’s 2005 single “Hoodies” (“Fling on an Adidas hoodie and just boogie woogie with me”).

For the last three years, Missy Elliott has had her own line of Adidas shoes, as well as an Adidas apparel line called Respect M.E. She mentioned her favorite sneaker brand in her 2005 song “On and On” (“I brang fever rockin’ classic Adidas”).


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