Adidas is a “brand in beta”, according to its global creative director, Paul Gaudio. Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today, he referred to the idea of operating via an open-source model appropriated from the technology world.
“We firmly believe the idea that we are a brand in beta. We are never finished. Instead of having all the answers, we prefer to come and ask questions,” he said about the near 70-year old brand. “It’s about constant reinvention… I like to talk about the idea that we’re on a journey. As a brand we’re a story, a narrative; it’s not a fixed thing.”
It’s on that basis the company launched its “Original is never finished” campaign for Adidas Originals earlier this year, which features the likes of Snoop Dogg through to basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and artist Petra Collins. They represent the idea of what it means to be a true original – the idea that things can be done multiple times over, that the brand is never finished. It’s set to a reworking of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
But this idea of exploring self-identity, of connecting closely with culture and community, and indeed the notion of open-source creativity, is also how Adidas approaches its collaborations.
“You can’t do everything inside a little walled garden… you have to bring ideas in from the outside. We do it with athletes, we do it with chemical companies… we know we can’t do this alone,” Gaudio added.
Athlete Stan Smith and fashion designer Alexander Wang were also on stage to discuss the way they have partnered with the brand.
The Adidas Originals x Alexander Wang collaboration was launched with a campaign that took inspiration from the reseller market, for instance. It secretly dropped in different cities around the world out the back of 17 trucks in trash bags as though the items were on the black market. The initiative led to 3 billion media impressions worldwide and the items selling out within one day.
“It was spot on, it was perfect; it captured everything I wanted to say about the collection,” said Wang. But why it worked was largely because of the openness he was met with at Adidas, he explained. “In all my partnerships, I have never been in a conversation that’s been so collaborative and open to ideas. From a creative point of view, I’ve always appreciated that.”
Gaudio added: “I ask myself all the time, ‘why bother?’ If we don’t allow someone like you to bring newness into the brand, what’s the point?”
It’s about releasing control with that open-source mentality working both internally and externally, he explained. “We have to enable creativity within the brand too – we have to create space for people to express themselves and chase their dreams… It’s about creating a framework and then leaving space for people to create; to take the brand to new levels. Good ideas rarely come from the top.”
This story first appeared on Forbes