adidas Originals

The first to redefine “original”—from celebrating the past to creating the future.



Remarkable Question

How do you return a brand to its glory days of the ‘80s?


The challenge was to reinvigorate the status of adidas Originals’ as the leading sports-inspired brand and help them claim their rightful and relevant place in culture.

Originals had huge streetwear credibility because they were the first. However, they were stuck in the past—seen as a retro product line instead of a powerful brand of their own.

As one of the most iconic athletic companies, adidas found themselves falling behind in a world where athletic wear was becoming fashion-forward. They needed a strategy to relaunch adidas Originals in a crowded athletic category, but also an even more crowded fashion category.


Celebrating and enabling originality is not enough–adidas must become a creator to truly stand for originality.  

The Idea

The big idea was for adidas Originals to stop competing in a category and start competing in culture. To stop relying on history and start creating the future. To stop chasing people with communications and start attracting them through actions designed to build brand equity through cultural currency. Our new mission was defined as, “adidas Originals exists to propel culture from the street up.” The platform became the progenitor for future-forward events, ad campaigns, and the evolution of partnerships with influencers like Kanye West, Pharrell, and Rita Ora.

Based on quant, ethnography studies, in-depth interviews, and culture inquiries, we discovered our audience defines originality in four ways: Bold—carried with a sense of assurance and confidence. Authentic—maintains a sense of integrity and stays true to identity. Challenging—questions the status-quo and pokes fun at power. Re-mixed—takes inspiration from, and plays with, culture. The foundation of our strategic framework was built around these four pillars.

Breaking the Rules

Our analysis showed we were playing by the category rules—and losing. We were seen as “credible,” “cool,” and “for sports,” but at significantly lower levels than the rest of the category. The white space opportunity was to focus our efforts on owning “individuality,” “character,” “innovation,” and “creativity”—the traits of an “original” that the rest of the category was ignoring.

The 7 Tenets of Original

In addition to delivering a new north star mission for adidas Originals, we developed seven tenets to help guide every decision they made.

1)   Own the intersection of sport x street.
2)   Treat Originals as its own brand.
3)   Compete in culture, not in the category.
4)   Make collective memory a springboard to the future.
5)   Do fewer things bigger and better.
6)   Utilize the entire brand infrastructure to “propel culture from the street up.”
7)   Demonstrate originality, don’t just claim it.