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NEW YORK — Adidas is hoping to grab back some market share with its new brand marketing campaign, the largest one the company has ever done.

“We have a job we need to do in America,” said Ulrich Becker, managing director of Adidas International, as he unveiled the campaign Thursday in Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood. “We are the leader in the sports industry in Asia and Europe and we want to be the leader again in America.”

This story first appeared in the February 6, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The German sporting company has seen its sales slip here as competitors such as Nike and Reebok International continue to gain ground. First-half sales in North America dropped 17 percent to $898.5 million, and in December, the company named a new president and chief executive officer of Adidas America. At that time, Herbert Hainer, Adidas-Salomon AG chairman and ceo, said: “North America is key to our success.”

The new year-long campaign, created by 180/TBWA, features a wide range of sports figures from around the world, including Muhammad Ali and his daughter, Laila, as well as David Beckham, NBA stars Tracy McGrady and Tim Duncan, tennis champion Justine Henin-Hardenne and soccer player Kristine Lilly. Adidas confirmed it will spend about $50 million this year on the integrated marketing program, which has the tag line “Impossible is Nothing.”

The TV ads incorporate computer-generated images of old footage of Muhammad Ali running in Kenya with current athletes spliced in. Another computer-enhanced ad shows him as a young man boxing against his daughter, and later commercials will features former gymnast Nadia Comaneci and other athletes.

In addition to TV and print ads, outdoor signs will run in six cities and store visuals are also being updated with the new brand campaign to convey a consistent image, Becker said. The campaign is launching in the U.S. now and will begin in Europe next month, and ads will continue running throughout this year.

Ali and his daughter both attended the unveiling events here Thursday, which began at 125th Street, where a billboard was displayed, and then moved to the Police Activity League on Manhattan Avenue and 118th Street. Ali, who was also in a spate of advertisements that ran during the recent Super Bowl, seemed in high spirits as he walked into the PAL center, waved to the crowd and even threw a mock punch. Outfitted in Adidas tracksuits and sneakers, father and daughter drew a media frenzy from the local and international press at the event.

Adidas also announced that it was partnering with PAL to support boxing and basketball programs for young boys and girls, some of whom were at the event.

“A lot of people told me I shouldn’t go into boxing,” Laila Ali told the youngsters. “If I had listened to them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s very important for you to follow your dreams. You really can’t let anyone decide your future for you.”

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