Adidas Hires Social-Media Stars to Double Women's Market Share

  • Sports-goods maker ‘not happy’ with standing in female market
  • Company seeks to lift share of women’s wear to 28% of total

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Adidas AG is increasing efforts to sell more gear to women through social media as it seeks to double its share of the female sporting-goods market by 2020.

The German company’s target customer “doesn’t follow the Real Madrids, she doesn’t follow the James Hardens, she follows her own cycle of influencers, and they are typically on Instagram or Youtube or the social media areas we tap into,” board member Eric Liedtke said in an investor address Tuesday. “So we put together a team of 25 influencers that come and work with us on a regular basis,” including retired former tennis No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.

The increased female focus is part of Adidas’s strategy to boost profit by as much as 22 percent each year through 2020 and close a profitability gap with rival Nike Inc. Liedtke said the company is “not happy where we are today” when it comes to its position in womens wear, which represented 23 percent of revenue last year, and vowed to lift that proportion to 28 percent within four years.

Adidas also teamed up with women further away from the world rankings, but with a high social-media presence, including model and disc jockey Hannah Bronfman, author and coach Robin Arzon and personal trainer Zanna van Dijk, to reach shoppers also sought after by competitors including Lululemon Athletica Inc. Such tie-ups are more loosely defined than traditional sponsorships with active world-class athletes like tennis player Angelique Kerber or cyclist Laura Kenny, the company said.

Fitness Studio

The move stops shy of what crosstown rival Puma SE has done, partnering with social-media celebrities including Kylie Jenner or singer Rihanna, who have no apparent connection to sports, but come with tens of millions of social-media contacts.

In January, Adidas opened a women’s fitness studio in London, which doubles as an event location and product testing ground, and may replicate that concept elsewhere if it pays off.

“We want to tap in with her through the people she follows,” Liedke said of the target female customer. Before being able to sell more sneakers, which represent about half the company’s revenue, Adidas must first improve its basic offering of items such as bras and tights, he said.

“You win her trust there, you really got her,” he said. “We are focusing on the key items that win her trust, that’s really what we are lasered in at.”

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