We probably don’t have to introduce you to adidas, the fourth-largest apparel brand in the world, with a market cap around $34 billion. This sportswear giant has outfitted some of the top athletes on planet Earth, from Lionel Messi to Damian Lillard. Run-DMC rapped about their shell toes in ’86; today, Beyoncé drops 3-Stripes swag for her IVY PARK collab. Born in Bavaria in 1949, today adidas is a global brand synonymous with both sport and streetwear culture.
With dozens of sport and fashion categories, hundreds of product managers and multiple information systems, adidas is the Tokyo subway system of ecommerce. According to the brand’s 2020 annual report, ecommerce accounted for 21% of revenue in 2020 with over $4 billion in sales across more than 50 countries.
“The Thread team is an absolute delight to work with. We landed together on a fantastic outcome that served the needs of my team and highlighted the expertise and creativity in their approach to problem solving.”
When adidas first reached out to Thread in 2005, ecommerce was in its relative infancy (this was five years before Warby Parker and nine before Glossier). Online sales were loose change in the couch cushions compared to the wholesale and retail empire that built and sustained the brand. Thread was hired to help navigate these new, unfamiliar waters. Today, we call this digital transformation. But back then it was a quiet experiment, and the journey started with just one writer and 80 European football products.
What followed was a decades-long partnership to imagine, create, build and execute one of the world’s most efficient and robust ecommerce copy production systems. Our aim was to put relevant, meaningful product stories in front of consumers, while creating processes that simplified the work for the adidas product managers responsible for delivering those stories.
The assignment is simple enough: Use words to describe a product to customers who can’t see, feel or try it on for themselves. It’s doing it at scale that compounds its complexity: from managing data handoffs to ensuring factual accuracy to maintaining a credible brand voice across multiple sports, collaborations and collections.
A brand as big as adidas is actually more like a collection of sub-brands, each with their own timelines, stakeholders and communication challenges. Thread’s system alleviates common pitfalls like producing copy for dropped models, missing material changes or forcing the work into unnecessary timeframes. Meanwhile, adidas’ partnership with our lean, nimble studio helps them to be efficient, react quickly and sidestep the red tape that comes with corporate culture, enabling us to scale the work and volume over time.
Today, systems at Thread communicate directly with systems at adidas, meaning that when product data is updated on the adidas side, it flows right into our content creation tool so our team can implement changes — even after the copy has been published on the PDP. Thread produces 95% of adidas ecommerce product content worldwide, including translation-ready copy for wholesale, adidas.com and Amazon.
Annual copy volume of product descriptions
On-time delivery rate
Annual error rate
Since the start of our partnership in 2005, adidas online sales have grown from $136 million to over $4 billion. As a percentage of revenue, adidas ecommerce has gone from 2% to 21%, and direct-to-consumer sales are projected to account for about half of net sales by 2025. Generating that kind of growth has everything to do with a brand’s ability to deliver and maintain an authentic conversation about its products with the consumer. The upshot is that producing meaningful, relevant, accurate product stories consistently across every segment of a brand at scale is a feat that’s more engineering than poetry.
“I have worked with the Thread Creative team for 4+ years focusing on creating interesting, on-brand sustainability messaging for dot-com. The team consistently brings creativity, positivity and interesting new ideas to the table and has worked closely with our teams to create fresh copy for our products. In addition to being excellent at what they do, the Thread team is fun!”
Once you become an expert in a brand’s products, and the stories behind those products, you’re in a unique position to improve communication across other channels. Here are just a few of the ways we’ve done this for adidas.
adidas relies on Thread to increase its targeting of organic search by creating SEO-rich content across hundreds of landing pages each month.
Digital learning tools cover everything from product launches to how to fold a hoodie, ensuring adidas retail employees can speak to shoppers with on-brand expertise.
Thread has created content for everything from hangtags and dressing room signage to wayfinding and brand initiatives for adidas retail locations around the world.
Campaigns pinpoint the messaging framework that sells product lines to market buyers, and are refined based on market feedback all the way up to product launch.
In collaboration with Hypotenuse AI, Thread piloted programs to use artificial intelligence to help create adidas B2B product descriptions.
Thread has produced workshops for adidas teams worldwide, providing tools for using story to improve everything from product development to copy translations to talent acquisition.
“Thread has consistently provided good thinking and a collaborative, integral process. They provide holistic and relevant storytelling, engaged listening, as well as challenge us thoughtfully and directionally. There is a reason we have had such a longstanding commitment together.”