Adidas Marketing Strategy: A case study in branding and marketing excellence

Written By
September 8, 2023


Few brands in sportswear and athletic apparel are as iconic and influential as Adidas. Established in 1949 by Adolf Dassler in Herzogenaurach, Germany, Adidas has become one of the world's leading sportswear manufacturers. This case study explores the journey of Adidas from its humble beginnings to its present-day status as a global powerhouse in the sports and fashion industry.

1. The Early Years

Adidas' story begins with its founder, Adolf "Adi" Dassler. Adi and his brother Rudolf Dassler started a small shoe company called Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik in the 1920s. However, due to personal and business conflicts, the brothers split in 1947. Adi renamed his company "Adidas" in 1949, a portmanteau of his first and last name, "Adi Dassler."

A focus on innovation and performance marked the brand's early years. Adidas introduced the first screw-in stud football boot in 1954, revolutionizing the sport. This commitment to product quality and innovation laid the foundation for Adidas' future success.

2. The Three Stripes Logo

One of Adidas' most iconic elements is its three-stripe logo. Initially introduced in 1952, the three stripes represent a mountain, symbolizing the challenges athletes face and the goals they strive to achieve. This logo has become synonymous with the brand's commitment to excellence and remains vital to Adidas' visual identity.

3. The Rise of Sponsorships

In the 1960s and 1970s, Adidas embraced the power of athlete endorsements and sponsorships. The brand signed legendary athletes like Muhammad Ali and Franz Beckenbauer, solidifying its reputation as a premier sports brand. Adidas continued to forge partnerships with top athletes and teams worldwide, enhancing its global reach and credibility.

4. The Shift Towards Fashion

While Adidas initially focused on sports performance, the brand recognized the growing demand for sportswear as a fashion statement. In the 1980s, Adidas pivoted by collaborating with iconic hip-hop group Run-DMC, which resulted in the famous song "My Adidas." This collaboration marked the brand's entry into streetwear and laid the foundation for its enduring presence in sports and fashion.

5. Challenges and Rebirth

Adidas faced various challenges in the late 20th century, including increased competition and financial difficulties. However, the company experienced a renaissance in the early 2000s under the leadership of CEO Herbert Hainer. Adidas invested in marketing, innovation, and acquisitions, including the purchase of Reebok in 2005. The brand's revitalization efforts paid off, leading to strong financial performance and market growth.

6. Sustainability and Social Responsibility

In recent years, Adidas has strongly emphasized sustainability and social responsibility. The company introduced its "End Plastic Waste" initiative and committed to using only recycled polyester in its products by 2024. Furthermore, Adidas has embraced ethical labor practices and made strides in reducing its environmental footprint, reflecting a commitment to a more sustainable future.


The Adidas case study showcases a remarkable journey from a small German shoemaker to a global sportswear and fashion powerhouse. Adidas has evolved and thrived in a competitive market through innovation, athlete endorsements, strategic partnerships, and a commitment to sustainability. As we look to the future, Adidas is an inspiring example of how a brand can adapt and excel while staying true to its core values and mission.