Adidas Group CEO Herbert Hainer

 “Shoes and shirts will be your personal trainer”

  • Adidas is the main sponsor of Euro 2012 and the 2012 Olympics, and CEO Herbert Hainer is projecting great jersey sales no  matter the outcome.
  • But the future of sportswear, he says, is obesity. The world’s growing number of overweight people will exercise.
  • And they’ll do so with sportswear that doubles as their coach.

Outside the air smells of manure. But step inside the front door of Adidas’s headquarters in Herzogenaurach, and you find yourself in a futuristic world of sportswear. Metro travelled to Herzogenaurach to speak with the CEO of the adidas Group, Herbert Hainer, about world sports events, where sportswear is heading – and why people pay so much for sneakers.

How important are Euro 2012 and the Olympics to Adidas, both as a revenue source and a brand platform?

Both are important because they have huge exposure around the world. Many million people will watch them, which makes them a great platform for our brand. But from the commercial perspective, they’re two different animals. The European Championship in football is a very good commercial opportunity because we’re the sponsor and outfitter of UEFA. That means that we’ll provide the official matchball, which gives us the opportunity to sell millions of balls. For example, during the 2010 World Cup we provided the official ball called Jabulani, and we sold 13 million balls in the Jabulani design that year.  At the Euro 2012 we outfit six of the 16 teams as well, more than any other brand. Then, of course, we sell the shirts of each team – Spain, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Denmark and Greece-  and we can use the championship to introduce new products. All of this  gives us great confidence that we’ll achieve record sales in football in 2012. The Olympic Games allow  us to showcase  our brand, to show that we’re the Olympic and performance brand and equip many different sports and athletes, but it doesn’t have an immediate commercial impact. You don’t sell track & field shirts just because Haile Gebrselassie wins the marathon, whereas in football, if a  team wins you sell  a lot of shirts.

Speaking of shirts: sportswear has become almost as important as sports itself. As a businessman, I’m sure you like it, but as a sports fan, don’t you think it’s a bit sad?

For us as a company it’s definitely good, and for the entire industry as well. But I’m convinced that sport isn’t suffering. Take a look at football: it was never more attractive than today. There has never been more attention paid to football than today. The stadiums are full, and it’s no longer a male-driven sport. Women attend games; so do young families with kids.  And the Olympics have become more popular as well;  London 2012 is expected to attract a record TV audience. So, sport hasn’t suffered at all.

What, from your perspective, will count as a success in Euro 2012 and the London Olympics?

I hope two of our teams will make it to the European Championships final. That would give us additional opportunities, because people across Europe would get excited as well. For example,  at the 2006 football World Cup in Germany, we were planning on around 700,000 Germany jerseys, but in the end we sold 1.5 million. And in 2004, when the European Championship took place in Portugal, Greece was the surprise winner. Since this was Greece’s first title ever, we sold almost 300,000 Greece jerseys after the final. But as far as I’m concerned, both the Olympics and Euro 2012 are already a success, because the products are selling well.

What does it tell you about society when spectators will buy expensive jerseys of his national or club team? It doesn’t make any logical sense that one buys the shirt just because one watches a game…

I’m obviously not a psychologist, but my opinion is that people want to belong to somebody, to a family. The football club is to a certain extent a family. That has been the case for the past 50 years: you have always had die-hard fans who  follow their teams and travel huge distances to watch them. They  do it even though it might be a huge hassle and they might end up seeing a bad game in the rain. But they have this feeling of belonging. And nowadays, and that is a difference to the past, they also express that feeling by wearing the team shirt to express to the public, “I’m a fan of the team; I belong to this family”. That might be a counter-effect to the family reality in today’s society. Families aren’t as close as they were 40 years ago. Families are spread out and bonding isn’t as strong as it used to be. People are looking for a new “family”, a group of people they can share things and express themselves with. And personally I believe we’ve made the shirts much nicer; they look good with jeans so you can wear them every day.

Adidas has a shoe with a chip that functions as a coach. How much do you think such futuristic products will be able to improve athletes’ performance?

Let me give you a simple example. We have a football boot called the F50, which has been the best-selling football boot in the world for the past two years. It only weighs 160 grams, and it’s quite easy to understand: the less weight you carry on your foot, the faster and longer you can run. And when you look at the statistics of how much athletes run today compared to 30 years ago, it’s much more – today some players run 12-13 kilometers per game or even more. It’s not only because of the lighter boot, but the lighter boot helps. The same thing goes  for jerseys – in the past you had cotton jerseys, which always got wet and heavy. Technology has helped to improve the jerseys and consequently athletes perform better. Of course, athletes are better trained today, they eat  differently and have better physios, but the equipment helps a lot too.

By Elisabeth Braw, Metro World News