Emily Tan
Mar 9, 2015

Adidas China's new #mygirls campaign sharply contrasts with Western sports marketing

CHINA - Taiwanese singer Hebe Tien leads Adidas' latest installment in its two-year #mygirls campaign series.

wide player in 16:9 format. Used on article page for Campaign.

Client: Adidas

Agencies: TBWA, Burson-Marsteller, Carat, Isobar and IM 2.0.

Market: China

Campaign scope: TV, print, mobile, online, social media, shopper activation

Press release quotes:  

Led by adidas women’s ambassador Hebe, women in Chengdu took their city by storm and joined hands to take on the 100-minute ATF challenge. In keeping with a 360-degree marketing campaign approach, the launch moment revealed the new adidas women’s commercial featuring a series of heart-warming and inspiring stories in which Hebe and her sisters show the true meaning of sisterhood. Whether it’s riding a bike across a bridge while everyone else sits in gridlock, happily jogging through the rain, or dancing like crazy on a rooftop one nightfall, these stories call for every single woman to join her sisters and enjoy getting fit together.

Women have long been an important market for adidas. Simon Millar, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Sport Performance and Sport Style at adidas China said, "Based on our findings, women tend to go further and aim for their personal best in sports when they come together with a group of close friends they call 'sisters'. Through the 'Unstoppable with #mygirls' campaign, adidas is once again calling on active and fun-loving women to unite, have fun and to achieve their personal best.”

Campaign Asia-Pacific's comments: Sports marketing to women has come a long way, and at first glance, this campaign would appear to have regressed that progress (just in time for International Women's Day too!) back to the 1950s. Perfectly coiffed, sparklingly fair and with barely enough muscle definition to lift their arms (with one notable exception), Hebe and her 'sisters' present an unrealistic image of women in sports. Contrast the ad above, for example, with the recent "This Girl Can" campaign by FCB for Sports England (below). 

Sweaty women, not all of them fit or slim and not all of them young. This campaign was based on the insight that many women avoided sports because, let's face it ladies, you just can't do a decent workout and look immaculate. The pressure and stress of this impossible task was keeping women away from much-needed exercise. 

However Adidas has based its deliberately frolicsome image of women in sports on solid research as well. In an earlier interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, the brand shared that in China, women had no interest in embarking on fitness activities to work out. They wanted to socialise and would only raise their heart-rates if their friends participated as well. 

Furthermore, the research also showed that the more "hardcore the imagery", the less women liked it. "An internal mood video in the early stages showing foreign women in exotic sports was rejected by our pre-market testing group," said Jens Meyer, vice president of marketing for sport performance at Adidas China.

Acting on this insight, Adidas China opted for the active but prettier sports of running, dance, parkour and, in this campaign, biking. They also selected girls like Hebe Tien as their ambassadors as it is women like her that girls in China aspire to be like. As a result of this insight, sales for Adidas womens' wear leapt 40 per cent at the end of the campaign run versus the period before the campaign started. 

So, setting aside the debate as to the long-term effects of campaigns such as these, there's no denying that this is an example of local insight paying off in sales and effectiveness. And, at least, they're not shaming anyone


TBWA declined to list individuals, saying only that the campaign was created and activated by TBWA, Burson-Marsteller, Carat, Isobar and IM 2.0.

This piece was edited to correct a results figure. The campaign did not result in 40 per cent increase on women's wear sales year-on-year, it resulted in a 40 per cent increase at the end of the campaign versus the period before the campaign

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