Adidas Sport Club

COACHELLA, CALIF. — Sometimes answers to innovation and what’s next can indeed reside in the past.

Adidas certainly wound back the clock in some respects, going back in time to tap a concept from its archives, bringing to life its version of the modern-day salon during its activation around this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. It’s not a new idea, conceived originally by the brand’s founder Adi Dassler who, some three decades ago, began pooling talent from across sports and design for the Adidas Sport Hotel.

The sportswear firm’s three-day roster of activities at the 50-acre Zenyara Estate in Coachella, taking place the same weekend as the Coachella music festival, was a new take on the concept that emerged in the Sixties, weaving in athletes, influencers, music artists and others to mix and mingle. Some might call that one big party. Adidas’ ambitions appear to reside somewhere more on the philosophical side of things.

“We are always a brand that is trying to bring creatives together and realize their creative ambitions and break barriers to creativity to take things to the next level,” said Adidas Originals senior director of North America Christine Sheehan. “We have a history of doing this; 747 [Warehouse in downtown Los Angeles] was a good example and the work we did last year. A lot of our events take on this persona and we want to start calling it something so we’re going to look to build this [Adidas Sports Club] as a brand moving forward and our idea is we start having the Sport Hotel exist in other cities and potentially in other countries as a way to nurture creatives and bring different people together, make human connections and push creativity forward.”

The Zenyara Estate, home of the Adidas Sports Club during the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.  Virisa Yong/

Sheehan said the company is in the midst of talking about next steps for the concept and whether it would manifest in the North American market or elsewhere.

“I know that the convos that take place out there, whether we’re involved or not, people will form collectives of creativity that will bring new ideas to the world at some level, whether its through Adidas product or their own,” said Jon Wexler, the company’s global vice president of entertainment and influencer marketing.

The kick-off event Friday at the lush grounds — which includes its own beach, pool, basketball court and golf course — was a case in point. The barbecue party was hosted by restaurateur Eddie Huang and Denver Broncos player Von Miller, who came together over the grill to cook for the 300 in attendance. Pusha T arrived later in the afternoon, setting off a new wave of camera clicks and snaps.

“I have never met Von Miller, so if I wasn’t at Coachella and Adidas hadn’t put us together, I probably wouldn’t have met him — and his chicken is actually out of control,” Huang said, describing the chicken Miller raises in Texas.

Liz Cambage

Pro-basketball player Liz Cambage at the Adidas Sports Club.  Virisa Yong/

“I was like, ‘Yo, when you’re ready I’ll use this chicken for [Huang’s restaurant] BaoHaus,’” he said, recounting what he told Miller. “So we connected on that level and that was really nice and that was probably my favorite thing cutting into Von Miller’s chicken as funny as that sounds.”

The Sports Club is in some ways a bid to keep up with the times as what defines influencer marketing undergoes yet another shift in what’s working and what’s not in companies’ marketing strategies. This year’s activities around the Coachella music festival seemed to be a prime indicator of the shifting tides.

“Influencer used to mean people in local communities, and not celebrity, who had influence. Now, influencer has become an actual job title,” Wexler said. “It’s a catch-all for people on social media, people in entertainment, even athletes. It’s become a synonym for the word creator, so that’s the evolution. I’d also say it’s gone from authentic to inauthentic. When influencer marketing started, the arc of that was it got to a point where people were recognizing ‘Oh, this is fake, curated life stuff’ and now I feel like the real influencers are starting to do a lot more live stuff to show their blemishes and flaws in real life because they recognize that the fake, curated thing is the dog eating its own tail.”

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