Winning a basketball game is no easy feat. The equation itself is simple: the team that scores the most points wins. But as any athlete will tell you, it’s a lot more complicated. There are a lot of factors that can sway the outcome of a game one way or another. Some can be planned for, such as facing a team with a better record, while others can be a surprise. So how does a team manage when the unexpected happens? By playing defense. This was a lesson Adidas, one of the leading sporting goods manufacturers, had to learn the hard way.
But let’s back track a bit, shall we?
It was a match made in heaven: Adidas and Derrick Rose, one of the most talented athletes in the NBA. The two first joined forces when Rose entered the league in 2008, and as his career skyrocketed, Adidas was there every step of the way. In just three years, Rose won Rookie of the Year, helped the Chicago Bulls regain levels of success not seen since the days of Michael Jordan, and in 2011, became the youngest player to win the highly coveted Most Valuable Player award.
So when it came time to renew their contract, Adidas spared no expense. In February 2012, Rose inked an unprecedented 250 million dollar, 14-year contract with sporting goods brand.
But just two months later, it all literally came crashing down.
Rose tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Game 1 of the playoffs and would be out for almost a year.
And that wasn’t the only bad news Adidas faced at the end of the 2011-2012 season. In addition to Rose, two other Adidas-backed NBA players went down with season-ending injuries. These incidents had many in the online sphere questioning the quality of Adidas products. Even more troublesome: Rose had to give up his spot on the 2012 USA Olympic team. This left Adidas’ biggest competitor, Nike, in the limelight during the London Games with superstars Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James sporting the infamous check sign logo.
With so much going wrong, Adidas could have taken two routes: (1) Wait for Rose to return to the court or (2) develop a campaign around the soundness of its products with the hopes of improving its brand image. Instead, Adidas chose a third option that not only incorporated the pros of both aforementioned scenarios, but also reflected Rose’s value to the brand.
In collaboration with Rose, Adidas developed a series of web videos called “The Return of Derrick Rose.” The episodes were released over the span of four months, and gave fans a chance to see a normally reserved Rose open up about his life and injury. The videos documented Rose’s road to recovery and featured a mix of rehab footage and interviews. As for the coverage, Adidas utilized social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter to share the series with fans—and they didn’t disappoint.
“The Return of Derrick Rose” generated over three million views on Adidas’ YouTube page. The impact of the web series, however, stems beyond just the number of clicks it received. The videos ensured that despite not having been on the court for almost a year, Rose remained relevant in the sports world. It also created a buzz around his impending return to the hardwood.
Through “The Return of Derrick Rose,” Adidas has given a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘turning lemons to lemonade.’ The sporting goods manufacturer was able to take an unexpected, worst-case-scenario and transform it into marketing gold. Given the success of this web series, it will be interesting to see how other sporting goods manufacturers manage similar situations in the future.