Sunil Gupta, Adidas India, Marketing and Advertising News, AND BrandEquity
As part of a significant development in the celebrity endorsement arena, Adidas India recently announced that Deepika Padukone is their Brand Ambassador. Sunil Gupta, Senior Director, Adidas Brand, India, reveals how the association was born, the challenges for women in sport today, the representation of body type in fitness, and more …
You recently signed Deepika Padukone, who has a solid sporting background and pedigree. However, in India, his larger-than-life Bollywood character surpasses his sporting heritage in terms of perception. How did you decide to partner with her?
We want to be the best sports brand in the world. We want to be credible, inclusive and put sustainability at the forefront of everything we do. When you look at it from a credibility and inclusion standpoint, having Deepika in the Adidas family made perfect sense. She is an actress by profession but her approach to life almost resembles that of an athlete. She embodies strength, resilience and she encourages women around the world to be the best versions of themselves. Ultimately, we both share similar values ââand are committed to inspiring women, fostering inclusion, and championing mental well-being. I think Deepika will lend a very credible voice within the Adidas family as part of the collective engagement.
Last year Deepika was caught up in a narcotics controversy following the tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput; Did that have no impact on your decision to register her as a Brand Ambassador?
Honestly, no. We want to see the world and the possibilities of what the future brings us. It was more about having a positive attitude and what it can bring to the table. It all goes back to our commitment to inspire women through a lens of mental wellness.
Tell us more about the diversity and inclusion component and the initiatives. How does your choice of brand ambassador fit into the bigger picture?
We firmly believe that sport must be accessible, inclusive and representative of all. We see ourselves as the catalyst for women in sport. We have intensified our efforts in recent years to ensure that sport can become even more inclusive for women. For example, earlier this year we launched a campaign called âWatch Us Move,â a locally adapted global movement. We’ve highlighted the strong and powerful stories of three women who challenged body positivity and cultural stereotypes.
The other more recent campaign is ‘Stay in Play’ – for our period-resistant TechFit tights which, thanks to technology, allow women to play and exercise even during their period. Once again, this was a powerful innovation from Adidas to ensure our commitment to encourage women to continue playing sports despite the challenges they face. Another example is our community of Adidas runners. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what brand you wear. If you love to run, join us – we have a strong community in three cities and it’s open to everyone, and we’re committed to making our consumers better versions of themselves.
Major fitness brands have made diversity and inclusion of women a talking point in their branding goal. However, communication and brand ambassadors might lack representation in terms of different body types. Take Deepika Padukone for example, in your case. Wouldn’t that alienate women who don’t fit the body type most often seen on TV?
I hope not, at least that’s our effort. When I talked about the Watch Us Move campaign, for example, we challenged stereotypes. If you see the campaign and the stories of the Three Mighty Women, this is what we aim to do. We have a very large roster of female athletes across the world, including India, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and we hope they will respond to the point you are talking about.
Top five challenges for women trying to get into sports and running?
We want to see a world not as it is today, but as it could be; it’s about realizing the possibilities. We see this through our strong partnerships with Mirabai Chanu, Hima Das and Lovlina Borgohain, who have all been remarkable athletes coming from recent Olympic successes. Each of them has an inspiring story, and as a brand we want to bring those stories to a wider audience. In terms of obstacles, it is also largely mental, but we have seen that the participation of women is on the rise.
We also had a great Olympic Games with the women. These athletes and stories will only help India get there. We are seeing positive benefits – their participation is increasing and their spending on lifestyle and sport is increasing. All of this bodes well for our broader commitment to ensuring that there are more women participating in sport.
The figures or models in terms of women’s spending are increasing …
I am not authorized to divulge specific figures. However, over the past two years, not only in our business and industry, but also looking around, you would have seen an increase in the number of women running, walking, participating in badminton or other sport. . It shows in the research we do and it is the fastest growing consumer segment for us. Women generally control household spending on sport and lifestyle.
Last year Adidas was in a high-profile fray to sponsor the men’s cricket team kits. What happened there?
It’s in the past and the idea is to continue our commitment to what lies ahead for the future. I wouldn’t want to go.
How was 2020 for you? Many consumers embraced fitness around this time, but they were still mostly indoors. What have you learned?
We have seen a lot of trends over the past 18 months. When we talk about improvement, for example, over 50% of our consumers feel that staying in good physical and mental shape is essential, almost like a strong insurance against what is going on around us. Next comes athleisure – when you’re sitting at home relaxing or working, comfort and style are everything. Digital is another big trend – the way people started to communicate, buy and connect has exploded. And durability, of course. Consumers who believe in brands that champion a cause see their success prevail.
You recently opened your first flagship store in Connaught Place (CP), Delhi. Shortly after opening a store in Bandra in Mumbai. Can you give us an idea of ââyour store’s strategy over the next few months?
We want to approach this by making sure we deliver the best-in-class experience to our buyers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s online or offline. Our CP store is 6,000 square feet and is the most digitally connected store of ours. We also opened our flagship online store which took the consumer experience to the next level. All of this is aimed at providing consumers with the best-in-class product with a strong storytelling in our physical and online stores.
In 2013, there was a huge accounting scandal that involved disgruntled franchisors of Reebok India. How have you navigated and evolved the franchise model since then? What have you learned?