I’ve always loved adidas. I even have a big wardrobe full of adidas shells in different colour ways, but I fell out of love with one of my favourite brands this week. Living only 200 yards away from where the Salford riots took place last week, I feel particularly strongly about the people who made me feel unsafe – they succeeding in stopping me going home one night for fear of attacks on my house and car.
My local shops have been smashed up, part of the road has been ruined by burnt out cars and 100 “yoofs” where in a stand-off with the Police for most of Tuesday night.
Whilst everyone was holding BlackBerry’s BBM and Twitter responsible for organising the riots (they were responsible, but no-one questioned them when they started revolutions against tyranny in the Arab world), I was more concerned with the people that were doing the rioting – not the tools they were using.
Don’t get me wrong, I love adidas products – but when you talk about a “brand”, you talk about everything associated with that company. You talk about how that company makes you feel, how much you want to be associated with their brand positioning, and how much you might want to aspire to the lifestyle that they project in their advertising. Here’s where I got a little bit unstuck….
I’m not bothered because the front page of almost every newspaper in the world (it seemed) had the iconic image [above] of one of the thugs fully decked out in adidas apparel, I’m bothered because when I scratched a little deeper there was a reason why many of the rioters felt such an affinity to the three stripes. It is one thing being edgy and cool in order to engage with the notoriously difficult 16-24 demographic, but putting yourself at the forefront of yob-culture is not the way to do it.
This week (great timing), adidas are launching a campaign with Snoop Dogg for adidas originals. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of his music (“Snoops-up-side-your-head….”), but I don’t like the fact that he was a gang member and is a convicted criminal. The very same campaign also features fellow US rapper Big Sean (he was charged with sexual assault only last week). Brands thrive on provocative advertising and effective positioning within their target demographic, but isn’t this just a bit inappropriate?
Now I’m not suggesting adidas originals roll Beckham and Noel Gallagher back out to restore their brand image, but I don’t think adidas can distance themselves from the very image that is causing their PR department such a nightmare. These, after all, are the very people that adidas is desperate to create “an emotional attachment with”. A quick search of “adidas riot” reveals that one of their shoes is even called the “Supernova Riot”! No wonder so many JD Sports shops were looted. Please. adidas – you let me down
I directed a similar message of distaste towards another of my favourite brands this week, Levis. An iconic label that I grew up with – but launching a new TV campaign glorifying ‘riot culture’ the very same week as the riots. I mean…. really???? [I know it was pulled eventually, but the sentiment remains].
And it’s not just adidas and Levis – the smaller brands looking to ride on the coat tails of the bigger brands are just as guilty. In their quest for more market share within a similar audience, they are using a similar “tone of voice” as well. Yes Criminal, Goi Goi. Fred Perry and Ben Sherman I’m talking to you. Our country has a great culture with some of the most creative, artistic and musical talent in the world. Showcase that. Give us something positive to aspire to. Because if you appeal to the lowest common denominator for lack of a more creative identity, then like adidas, this image will come back and bite you on the ass. And why is this so important? Because as all brand marketers already know…
“Your brand isn’t what YOU say it is, it’s what THEY say it is”.