We look at the history of Adidas’s “Impossible Is Nothing” slogan and how it changed the German brand forever.
The history of Adidas is the history of a family. How two brothers were separated by World War II never to speak again. From this disagreement, two of the most influential companies in the world in footwear, fashion and sports sponsorship were created: Adidas and Puma.
We talked extensively about the history of the creation of Adidas and Puma in our report: Adidas and Puma, the story of two brothers facing each other. But this time we want to focus on the contemporary time of Adidas and how it resurfaced in a moment of maximum weakness against its greatest rival: Nike.
El desembarco de Nike en Europa
At the end of the nineties, Nike had begun to export its brand idea through advertisements featuring the big stars of the NBA with Michael Jordan at the helm. At the Barcelona 92 Olympic Games, the Dream Team turned Nike into a global phenomenon and they discovered how in Europe there was the same fever as in the United States for basketball.
It was then that they decided to set out to conquer an exotic sport of which they practically did not understand anything: Soccer. To do this, he created the Nike Football division and carefully studied the particularities of the football culture in each country where the beautiful game raised passions. As it did with Michael Jordan, Nike dedicated itself to signing with those footballers who offered something different to the world of football. Eric Cantona, Ronaldo, Kluivert, Figo, Maldini, etc … athletes who made a difference in their teams in the same way that Michael Jordan did in the Chicago Bulls.
But it was not until Euro 1996 that Nike decided to hit the table with a huge budget to run an advertising campaign in Europe. This is how the mythical “Good vs Evil” was conceived. A spectacular advertisement featuring the top stars to which a special event was dedicated on European television on opening night. Nike had burst into the world of football and started eating from the same plate as Adidas, at that time dominating the European territory.
The resurgence of Adidas.
In early 2000, the Adidas brand was at a clear disadvantage with its big rivals: Nike and Reebok. Both conquered young audiences with their cheerful, hooligan and aggressive advertising campaigns. But in order to reposition themselves as an inspiring sports brand, they had to compete with the famous “Just Do It” of the American multinational. And they took advantage of the arrival of the 2006 World Cup in Germany to work on their brand image.
The idea was clear, attract a public between 12 and 24 years old who are fond of sports. They needed to rekindle their positioning as an inspiring sports brand, as well as revitalize their business to be a more competitive brand. For the development of this task they decided to have 180 / TBWA, a collaboration between the Dutch agency 180 and TBWA \ Chiat \ Day, who after searching through the entire history of the brand, ended up using a phrase from one of the great flag-bearers of Adidas: Muhammad Ali.
In his speech Muhammad Ali said: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. Just the last three words perfectly summed up the message that the well-known footwear and sportswear brand wanted to convey”.
Impossible is nothing
“Impossible is nothing” served as the backbone of the campaign and brand spirit, and in February 2004, Adidas launched the largest and most expensive global campaign of the moment: $50 million to engage its target audience. And they decided to achieve it through all possible means (television, press, outdoor advertising, point of sale and the Internet).
The result was a campaign that had 22 athletes, all of them sports icons such as Muhammad Ali, Haile Gebrselassie, David Beckham or Tracy McGrady. They made a spectacular announcement by composing old images with images created for the occasion and thereby bringing together historical athletes to encourage the public to overcome any handicap that could prevent moving forward. In the pieces, the athletes defied the impossible, accepting risks and setting new goals. An example of this, the spot in which a young Muhammad Ali boxed with his daughter Laia.
The result was an emotional and inspiring communication campaign, which transcended beyond advertising, becoming a true philosophy and an attitude that has accompanied many athletes around the world to overcome their limits and provided us with four of the five best Adidas Commercials throughout its history.
Related: The story of Adidas and Puma
The Story of Adidas and Puma