ADIDAS MAPS OUT ITS INTERNET GAME PLAN

Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Adidas-Salomon AG gained more distance Wednesday in the Internet race by announcing preliminary agreements with SportsLine.com and Sports.com for global co-marketing deals.
The German footwear and apparel brand also said it has signed agreements with key retailers in the U.S. to sell Adidas products through their Web sites. The initial agreements include such sites as FootLocker.com, MVP.com, FootAction.com and FinishLine.com, an Adidas-Salomon spokesman said in a telephone interview.
Adidas-Salomon currently is in talks with several European retailers about selling Adidas products via their Internet sites. It expects deals to be final within the next few months, the spokesman said.
The agreements announced Wednesday fulfill the strategy Adidas-Salomon laid out in January when it announced a major restructuring as well as plans to invest about $5.1 million to accelerate its involvement in the Internet. The company earlier announced the launch of its own online stores in the U.S. and Europe to sell selected Adidas-Salomon products at their recommended retail prices.
The spokesman said Adidas-Salomon will have to invest an undisclosed amount as part of the deals with SportsLine.com and Sports.com, its majority-owned European subsidiary that is also an e-commerce site. He said the investment is part of the $5.1 million announced earlier.
Adidas-Salomon will work with SportsLine.com and Sports.com to develop co-marketing strategies linked to virtual and real events and to create new Internet content and entertainment that would promote Adidas, SportsLine.com and Sports.com. The companies also believe there is significant potential for contextual selling of Adidas products by linking product offers to specific sporting events, teams or athletes.
The German company said in a statement that the agreements make Adidas-Salomon among “the first major sporting goods compan[ies] to team up with a company that distributes sports information online.”
The spokesman said the deals are global and exclusive. The new content should be launched on the sites within the next few months in the U.S. and Europe and later in the Far East, he said.
“We always said that we weren’t interested in just selling via the Internet,” the spokesman said. “Internet commerce is still basically a form of mail-order. We were looking for things that were more advanced, like contextual selling. We don’t expect to get billions of deutschmarks in sales via the Web. This is a learning phase for us, a presence for the brand and an opportunity to learn how the Internet works.”
The agreements with U.S. retailers and their Internet sites are part of the company’s new Trilogy program, which aims to integrate the Adidas brand, its partners and the respective technologies into a coherent marketing strategy.
Adidas-Salomon has established specific criteria for these key retail partnerships, which include a commitment to service and a willingness to position Adidas as a premium brand within the right environment. The retail agreements are not exclusive, the spokesman noted.