The Adidas x Soul Cap Partnership: Why It Works

3 valuable lessons marketers can learn from the impactful collaboration

It’s no secret that collaboration is essential to growth, but the how of it isn’t always so clear—and it's the understanding of how that is a true competitive advantage. Join Adweek X, a uniquely formatted event on December 4 in LA, to unlock fresh perspectives, true collaboration and growth.

Adidas, known for bridging the gap between style and sport, has announced an incredible partnership with Soul Cap. The mission of the London-based startup is to make “swim for all” with a focus on accessibility, particularly when it comes to Black swimmers struggling to protect their hair in the water and experiencing discomfort using swim caps that don’t fit. So Adidas and Soul Cap have created their first swim cap collection together.

As marketers, we are the stewards of our brands, constantly looking in the ecosystem for the right partnerships. Because we know that the wrong brand partnership, the wrong fit, can damage our brand and our connection with our communities. And when we find the right brand partnership, it can help to strengthen our brand message and amplify the impact we are trying to make. Strong partnerships can be a win-win for everyone involved.

Here’s what marketers can learn on how to build a meaningful collaboration from the Adidas and Soul Cap partnership.

Identify the problem

Back in 2019, former and current Adidas employees in the U.S. spoke to the New York Times about feeling marginalized and discriminated against. Since then, Adidas redefined its diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, expanded its DEI team and set clear targets for attracting and retaining talent from historically marginalized communities. While they continue to strive to create a fair and equitable workplace, Adidas also recognizes that they have the power and responsibility to make the world of sports more fair and equitable.

As marketers, we must identify the problem we are trying to solve before we jump to select the “right” partner. In the case of Adidas, as a leading sports brand, they identified that problem and understood where they could make an impact. Adidas wanted to play its part in getting more people into swimming regardless of their hair type. And they knew they needed the right partner to collaborate with.

Select the right partner

Growing up, Soul Cap founders Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed didn’t think swimming was meant for them. None of their friends or family members ever went swimming. They realized it wasn’t a sport open to everyone, and it wasn’t until they were adults that they found their love of swimming.

“My mum doesn’t swim,” explained Toks. “Michael’s mum doesn’t swim and I’ve got two sisters who always avoided swimming because of the faff with their hair.” So they founded Soul Cap, a long hair swim cap designed for hair blessed with volume. They have sold over 30,000 swim caps and are on a mission to break down social barriers when it comes to swimming.

Adidas, rather than creating their own inclusive swim cap, decided to find a partner who was already solving the problem. By partnering with a Black-owned brand, they honored the work that was already being done and built a partnership to amplify the goal of making swimming for everyone.

For marketers, this is an important lesson: Find those in the ecosystem to partner with who are already solving the problem. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Just like Adidas did, use the power and platform of your brand to lift up and give even more exposure to a business much smaller in size than yours. And in the case of Adidas, they chose to collaborate with Soul Cap, a Black-owned business that has been doing the work since 2017.

Share the spotlight

Finally, this is an opportunity for a big brand like Adidas to share the spotlight. In all the media coverage of this partnership, equal weight is given to both brands Adidas and Soul Cap.

Both brands have been sharing the collaboration announcements on their social media platforms. You can purchase the swim cap on either one of the brand’s websites. On the Adidas website, they give the space and the opportunity for the founders of Soul Cap to tell their story of how they built their business and their long-term vision. While this collaboration won’t remove every single barrier when it comes to swimming, it’s a step in the right direction.

For marketers, it’s a slippery slope when announcing a partnership—wanting to ensure your brand gets its moment in the spotlight while also acknowledging your partners. Remember to be generous and share the spotlight, particularly if you are an industry titan like Adidas. Consumers will find a partnership all the more meaningful and credible if you give your partners the credit and recognition they have earned and deserve.