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How Adidas Seeks To Make Teens Feel Famous And Cool

The brand's marketing incorporates the ideas that most American high schoolers believe they will be famous someday and that they use brands to build their identity.

Posted on January 29, 2014, at 6:59 p.m. ET

Michael Dalder / Reuters / Reuters

Most American teens want to be famous — and most of them believe that someday they will be, a top Adidas U.S. executive said Wednesday.

That insight, from youth researcher the Cassandra Report, helps inform the retailer's marketing to American high schoolers, who view brands as means to fame among their peers, the company's director of brand communications and digital marketing, Chris Murphy said at Women's Wear Daily's digital forum in Los Angeles. Brands are a major component of high schoolers' identity, right up there with family, religion, and the kind of phone they use, he said.

Here's one way Adidas taps into that: In 2012, the brand invited a high schooler to Orlando to review its Adizero Rose 2.5 basketball shoes, named for basketball player Derrick Rose. Halfway through the video, Rose surprises the teen, who's stunned by the appearance.

Adidas frequently conducts these kinds of visits and surprises, which reach a smaller audience than say, buying ads in a print magazine, but it makes for a stickier consumer who "grows through life loving you," Murphy said. Not only that, but high schoolers are way more inclined to tell their friends about such experiences, which is by far the most powerful advertising vehicle for the age group.

So it's worth it for Adidas focus on the less measurable "return on relationship" vs. the more traditional "return on investment," Murphy said.

In another instance, Adidas's creative team will make a graphic for a specific high school football team, like California's Pac-5, along with a good-luck note, he said. It's worth it if it goes to just 60 kids, with 300 to 400 Twitter followers each, and gets retweeted 30 to 40 times, he said.

"We do a lot of this high-maintenance marketing, and it's expensive and we only talk to a small amount of kids in the broad spectrum by doing that," he said. "But they stick with us and we keep them year after year and that group grows."

"It's rewarding people who are more likely to be our advocate because they're already in our systems or we know they're prone to be advocates," Murphy said. And, importantly, "you can watch the social flow into commerce."