Adidas comes into Badminton – Why and how?

There is always a sense of excitement every time the word filters through that a new brand is making an entry in the fiercely competitive sport of badminton. We have […]

There is always a sense of excitement every time the word filters through that a new brand is making an entry in the fiercely competitive sport of badminton. We have had some that have come and gone. In recent times HEAD withdrew from the market, which was a sad development for such a globally accepted player and after an initial flurry, the Indian brand THWACK failed to make any impact, while the well-established brands continue to prosper and dominate the market.

After a bumpy 2012 the year came to a close with the welcomed news that the global sporting giant adidas were to make their entry into our sport and news and details of their products started to filter through and what was initially speculation soon became a reality as adidas hit the global badminton market with a full and complete range of products.

Badzine correspondent Mark Phelan recently caught up with Christophe Dessalles, President KWCC, adidas global Licensee for Badminton and put a number of questions to him about the brands strategy, vision and goals for the sporting giants entry into the badminton market.

Q1: Can you explain the though process behind adidas decision to enter the Badminton market?

Christophe Dessalles: Adidas understands the global appeal of badminton given current statistics suggest 200 million worldwide play badminton. Whilst the markets in Europe and America are strong, badminton enjoys a high profile in the Far East where it is considered a leading sport. As such, given adidas is one of the world’s leading sports brands with global appeal, there is a strong narrative for it to launch into badminton.

Q2: Explain in detail adidas vision for the coming year, five years and where they see themselves in 10 years’ time in relation to the sport of badminton?

CD: 2013 for adidas UK is a building phase. We have recruited leading badminton experts across our sales and marketing functions to bring to market a broad product offering that will encourage the recreational player to take up badminton as well as maximise the performance of the serious player. We will inspire the badminton community with our products and change badminton perceptions through our communications. We will also be working closely with our adidas ambassador, Viktor Axelsen.

In 5 years time, adidas sees itself very much as part of the badminton community with postive sentiment shared on our products and our engagement with badminton people. We will bring highly innovative products to the market to be enjoyed by all and our customer service will be second-to-none. We want to be contactable and approachable, not at arms-length from the badminton community. From a popularity perspective, we aim to be a top 3 badminton brand globally by sales but no.1 by advocacy.

In 10 years time, we hope that we can confidently say we have challenged traditional conventions, introduced greater innovation into the game and increased the global exposure of the game, bringing it to new audiences. We want to see our products helping the best players to smash harder, move quicker and control the shuttle with the lightest of touches. Similarly we want to see more recreational players finding enjoyment in this great game.

Q3 How do adidas plan to tackle the uniquely diverse global markets in particular Asia, Europe and USA?

CD: The strategy we are employing will ensure we deliver the right products and associated marketing for each local market. Firstly in the key badminton markets, we are setting up our own offices with our own people. Secondly we are recruiting leading experts in each local market who are highly knowledgeble and experienced and understand the local requirements. Thirdly we have a product development team comprising representatives from these key markets which ensures we develop products which meet the needs of local markets whatever their standard of play. Lastly we have developed a very broad range of products across each product category, for example we have developed nearly 340 styles of clothing, and given each market the flexibility to select the product range that best meets the requirements of the local badminton community.

Q4. adidas have always been associated with quality design, manufacturing and retail of top quality apparels and footwear but hardware is something that adidas has remained distant from in most sports. How will adidas overcome this in badminton and what has been the process in designing and testing your new range of rackets and how big of a challenge has this been?

CD: Clearly this is new territory for adidas however we have approached this challenge in the same way we approach challenges when innovating in apparel and footwear. We have recruited leading experts, in this case Japanese badminton engineers, to lead the badminton product development and supported these engineers to work to a new level of quality – the level that adidas expects and demands. adidas has also sought the experience of appropriate badminton players including top international players to playtest our top frames. Feeding back crucial playtest information into the product development process is vital in ensuring our products meet the needs of the player. I think it’s important to mention here that whilst adidas does not have a history in badminton hardware, we do have a reputation for developing and bringing to market the most insightful and innovative quality sports products in the world, badminton will be no exception.

Q5: What lines of apparels, shoes and hardware will adidas (model specific) enter the badminton market?

CD: We are coming to market with a complete range of 27 badminton rackets including rackets from recreational to performance, 340 styles of apparel, 8 grades of feather shuttle, 3 grades of synthetic shuttle, 6 types of string, 6 types of grip, 25 pieces of luggage, 16 styles of trainer and 2 types of stringing machine. As you can see, we mean badminton business!

Q6: What will adidas strategy be in relation to player sponsorship and endorsement within Badminton and are we likely to see adidas get involved with major badminton tournaments as main sponsor?

CD: Adidas has already moved into the player ambassador market. Viktor Axelsen, the 2010 World Junior Champion and current World No. 22 joins us in March 2013 as does Wing Ki Wong, current World No. 19, again only 22 years of age. In April 2013, we will welcome Nozomi Okuhara, current Junior World Champion and ranked No. 25 in the world. This team of “Young Gun” talent is the first of many which will showcase our products to the world. Specific to events, we are in very preliminary discussions with event holders and hope these will conclude successfully.

Q7: What is adidas plan in relation to sourcing, manufacturing and supply of shutteclocks?

CD: Speaking to many club players and retailers, the challenges faced with feather shuttlecocks is a) consistent performance and b) price. We have adopted a market leading QC and QA process that ensures every feather shuttle is visually inspected as well as tested for flight. We have also invested in specialist shuttle manufacturing equipment that delivers a better quality product. Specific to synthetic shuttlecocks, we have developed a new nylon skirt molding tool which allows a greater degree of precision in the moulding process to deliver a perfect shuttle flight. In summary, we believe we have moved to a new level in shuttle quality. We hope our stong sales lines will mean we are able to supply great performing shuttles at an affordable price.

Q8: adidas have an already tried and tested network of distribution and retail, do adidas plan to use this route to market or engage in more badminton specific routes utilising badminton people with specific badminton knowledge?

CD: We will absolutely be utilising badminton specific people to help us sell our products into the local markets and guide our marketing campaigns. This is really important to us, we want to be part of the badminton community, to achieve this we need badminton people onboard.

Q9: The market is and has been facing a global financial challenge in the past few years and many badminton brands have been consolidating rather than expanding. How do adidas see the market globally and how much of a risk is it for such a well-respected global brand taking a step into the unknown, namely global badminton?

CD: Whilst we appreciate the economic climate is difficult in many areas, the high levels of global Badminton participation are a huge opportunity to grow the sport rather than a risky entry into the unknown.

Q10: In terms of market share where do adidas see them positioning themselves over the coming years in percentage terms against the big players such as Yonex and Li Ning.

CD: We would not want to speculate on where we see ourselves in the short, medium or long term. We have our own internal business growth strategy which we are fully committed to achieving. Clearly we hope to secure significant  market share given the quality of our products and strength of the adidas proposition.

Q11: We have already seen tentative steps in some social media marketing from adidas which has been UK driven. How important to adidas is the UK and European market as a whole and what will be the strategy in Europe?

CD: The majority of our social media is being driven through our global HQ in Hong Kong. If you visit, you can see the pre-launch visuals which hopefully will give your readers an indication of how refreshingly different our approach to the badminton market will be. We will be using facebook as a major channel of communication to the badminton world with interesting information such as local demo sessions and competitions. We already have 17,000 people Liking us!

The UK and European markets are extremely important. They are, in the majority, mature badminton markets which have well established infrastructures in place to give a brand such as adidas the opportunity to secure widespread distribution as well as engage consumers efficiently. Our strategy will remain consistent in that we will be offering fantastic playing products to every type of badminton player and with that bring enjoyment through our communications and customer service.

Q12: Knowing the complexity of badminton globally have adidas decided to seek out people with badminton knowledge in each of the markets and if so who are they and what are their personal opinions on the market and adidas entry into the unique badminton market.

CD: Yes we have sought to recruit leading badminton experts in each key market as this is instrumental in becoming part of the badminton community. The overwhelming consensus on adidas entering the market is positive, the ability for a brand to raise the profile of a sport such as badminton cannot be underestimated. That said we know there are some very established brands within the market, we will be working extremely hard to ensure adidas become one of these established brands.

About Mark Phelan