Adidas Turns Bull’s Injury Into Inspiration

Sneakers brand stitches together an integrated campaign for return of MVP

Last April, just two months after Adidas inked Derrick Rose to a 14-year contract worth at least $250 million, the National Basketball Association MVP blew out his knee, and sports marketers nationwide groaned a collective “ouch.”

But rather than let Rose disappear on the injured reserved list, the sports apparel giant spent the summer stitching together an integrated “Return of D Rose” campaign—with the creative, by ad agency 180 LA, centered on Rose’s rehab.

Illuminated by images of determination and perspiration, TV and digital ads have blanketed media channels in the last five months, leading to a groundswell of Facebook and Twitter activity that inspired the star athlete.

“Seeing all of the comments that come in every day with people wishing me support,” Rose told Adweek, “has been fuel for me. It really has.”

At press time, Rose was reportedly almost set to return to the hardwood for the first time in nearly a year. With the “Return” initiative apparently complete, Adidas and its digital agency, Roundarch Isobar, revealed stats for what’s been an unusual effort.

“I cannot think of another athlete that’s been out for an extended period of time and used by the brand while he or she’s not playing,” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing analyst and ecd at Baker Street Advertising. “It’s a tough thing to do. The brand managers couldn’t ignore the fact that he’s not playing. He’s their guy. They’ve wanted to make sure he stays top of mind so they can recoup their investment while he’s not playing.”

Adidas’ game plan seems to have notched a victory while scoring a flurry of digital points.

For instance, Return of D Rose has been a national trending topic on Twitter three times, according to Adidas. Twitter followers for @adidasbasketball have soared by 100 percent, Facebook chatter about the brand has jumped 200 percent, and the effort’s YouTube videos have been viewed 7 million times.

On the business side of the campaign, online searches for the basketball player’s new sneaker—the D Rose 3—skyrocketed by 400 percent, according to Adidas, which estimates 140 million consumers have seen the overall initiative.

Dorfman said, “I think they are doing an admirable job keeping him out there, competing against Nike, which is spending huge money with LeBron James [ads].”

Portland, Ore.-based Adidas wouldn’t divulge sales figures but intimated—at the beginning of the appeal—that it would value social media success.

If you look at the stats sheet, the campaign has been something of a slam dunk for the brand. And now it appears to be time for tip-off for Rose and his Chicago Bulls. “Seeing everyone’s support, it has motivated me to come back stronger than I was before,” Rose said. 

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