How Adidas Brought Back Its Iconic Stan Smith Shoe to the Global Market

Some of you might have noticed that the Adidas Stan Smith is the hardest to find and the most coveted shoe this spring. After stopping the production of these iconic sneakers in 2011, Adidas is bringing back the Stan Smith with an initial wave in January 2014 and again in July 2014.

Today we will have a look at this successful product return on the global market and the marketing strategy behind it.

Stan Smith, an iconic shoe

To understand the successful come back of this iconic shoe, we first need to have a look at its history, which started back in 1964.

Originally, the Stan Smith was a tennis shoe developed for the French tennis player Robert Haillet in the mid 60s. The name of Stan Smith was added to the tennis shoe at the start of the 70s, when Stan Smith, a famous American tennis player, who began wearing the shoe in 1971, started to endorse it. With this shoe, Stan Smith won the US Open on grass and the Davis Cup on clay with the American team in 1971 and the Wimbledon in 1972. See more information on this video: https://www.adidas-archive.org/#/ourheroes/smith

The Stan Smith was the first leather tennis shoe ever made, and became very successful over the years, especially in the 90s. Today, however, the shoes are seen more as fashion sneakers; they were mentioned in a Jay-Z song in 2001, and more than 30 million pairs were sold over the past four decades.

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Adidas stopped producing Stan Smith in 2011

In 2011, Adidas decided to stop the production of the shoes by 2012, as, despite continuing popularity in France, interest in the shoes has waned in other countries. This decision was met with criticism and disappointment, especially by fans of the shoe on social media channels.

A successful come back in 2014

After the stop in production in 2011, stocks of the sneakers started to slowly disappear.  A year later, only a few pairs of second-hand Stan Smith sneakers could be found online, with a very limited choice in colors and sizes. However on the 31st of May 2013, while fans were beginning to accept that they would no longer be able to purchase their favorite shoe, Adidas posted a very intriguing tweet:

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Today, Adidas aims to refresh this everlasting model while staying true to the shape and model of the original. The initial wave of releases started in January 2014 and will continue in July 2014.

“A global fashion icon will be reborn in Spring/Summer ’14 as the legendary Stan Smith returns from its sabbatical. Removed from the shelves for the past few seasons, the classic silhouette has been re-invigorated and updated for the modern day while still staying true to the look and shape of the original”, explained the Adidas Press Release.

“One of the most culturally iconic and commercially successful tennis silhouettes of all time, the Stan Smith will re-affirm its place at the pinnacle of the market with the launch of 2 new premium collections in FW13. This will be exclusively available at adidas Consortium stores, before the full range of new Stan Smiths are rolled out from January 2014 with a second drop in July 2014.”

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The marketing strategy

The return of the legendary Adidas sneakers is extremely successful due to a very precise marketing strategy, which started by creating the buzz on social media.

1) A fully integrated campaign with a focus on social media

The Stan Smith campaign includes print, outdoor, in-store and digital advertising.

Adidas mainly created the buzz online, starting December 2013, with the release of a black and white documentary-style interview of Stan Smith on the official website and a viral video featuring famous fans of the shoe, such as tennis player Andy Murray, designers Lucio Castro and Louis-Marie Castelbajac, and singers Sky Ferreira and Momo Wu, all discussing the impact that Stan Smith sneakers had on their style and work.

View all the youtube videos here.

Adidas were also able to reach its previous fans through social media channels, with intriguing posts announcing the return of the Stan Smith and contests to win personalized pairs of shoes.

2) Creating the rarity …

… By removing the Stan Smith from the shelves

Adidas managed to significantly boost its sales by removing the Stan Smith from shelves, creating a new need for this shoe that suddenly became rare. It is not very probable that Adidas gained more Stan Smith fans within the three past years since it was removed from the stores; the recent explosion of sales is more likely due to the marketing strategy behind the disappearance of the iconic sneakers, which cleverly maintained the myth and created its rarity.

 … By controlling the demand

Adidas has been controlling the supply of the Stan Smith in order to increase the desire for this newly exclusive shoe. The company is restocking every month and possesses an inventory based on demand. Some of the classic models have been sold out for several weeks since the re-launch, a move which ensures that limited supply increases demand and fuels a renewed desire for the iconic shoe.

 … By partnering with exclusive retailers and worldwide leaders in fashion, design and culture

In September 2013, Adidas teamed up with a selection of exclusive retailers across the globe to offer premium and limited editions of the classic Stan Smith. The brand also produced customized Stan Smith sneakers for a small group of fashion, design and cultural leaders from all over the world. Each shoe adapted the famous “Endorsed by Stan Smith” graphic with the Stan Smith’s face of the partner.

3) Re-launching at the right time

The re-launch also marks the 50th anniversary of the shoe, which is Adidas’ top-selling brand. It is therefore easy for Adidas to justify the re-launch of the shoe after a three-year absence.

Moreover, the strategy behind this campaign is to play with nostalgia and the retro fashion trend. Joanna Douglas explains “ There’s also a massive ’90s fashion resurgence happening right now, and it has both men and women alike seeking old-school garments and accessories with iconic logos, and Adidas’s timeless designs certainly fall into that category. “

By bringing back an iconic shoe with a campaign celebrating its heritage, Adidas ensures that consumers will feel connected to the product and will desire to purchase it.

4) An improved version of the Stan Smith

Lastly, the new Stan Smith is highly sustainable and made from quality materials, in order to appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

References: Huffingtonpost, CounterKicks, Sneaker News, The One Centre, Yahoo Fashion, GQ Magazine

Pictures: HuffingtonpostSneaker News

Marion is the Founder of The Branding Journal. She currently works at a global advertising agency for big brands such as L’Oréal, Nestlé or MasterCard. Her passion for branding made her create The Branding Journal – with the objective to offer an online platform to branding professionals.

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