Clean beach campaigner, sprinter, cricketer power Adidas India's green run

Topics adidas | Rohit sharma | Hima Das

For a global brand such as Adidas that has long powered the aspirational run for young Indian consumers, it is an unusual choice for an influencer. Afroz Shah, a Mumbai resident who earned himself global acclaim for cleaning up the beaches of Versova, a suburb in Western Mumbai, is part of the company’s list of influencers driving its global ‘Run for the Oceans’ initiative in India. Shah is not the only local face making up the list; Hima Das and Rohit Sharma are there too, although their role is to further the brand’s cause with young aspiring sportspersons in the country.


What is driving a big global brand to step away from the traditional approach of using celebrity ambassadors for a band of local icons? One reason is the nature of new consumerism that brands such as Adidas are up against. Their core target groups, millennial and younger audiences, are passionate about a bunch of causes, environment and fitness being among the top concerns and want their brands to show a similar passion.


 For Adidas and many others, it is no longer enough to just align with the same causes, but also to seek the stamp of authenticity with trusted local influencers. Manish Sapra, senior marketing director at Adidas says the brand is committed to the larger cause of the environment and the ongoing initiatives are part of the larger whole. “It’s not only about cleaning the oceans and beaches, but also about stopping the pollution in the first place, so it does not reach such a dire state,” he adds, emphasising the importance of educating people about the issue.


Other brands in the space are speaking the same language. Denim brand Levi’s whose signature product is a pair of jean pants with a ‘wash’ (a slight fade in the colour of the denim in parts) is working to eliminate potassium permanganate from the process, to make its manufacturing more environmentally sustainable.

Adidas has honed its focus on the health of the oceans and marine life. Through its partnership with the Parley Foundation, it has launched initiatives to clean up the oceans, and educate people about ways to conserve oceans and marine life. In 2018, it started ‘Run for the Oceans,’ engaging nearly one million runners from around the world to raise $1 million for Parley. The money was used to educate and empower 100,000 youth and their families in coastal areas. The partnership saw five million pairs of shoes made using recycled ocean plastic in 2018 alone, Sapra said.


In 2019, the company said it intends to raise $1.5 million and make 11 million pairs out of recycled ocean plastic. It is important for a brand to not just initiate such programmes, but also ensure that it engages its customers, especially since the young are keen to participate in the causes they support. “Consumers also want to get involved with such initiatives. It is a way to involve conscious consumers and invite them to do their bit. Apart from the run, we also engage with local champions of the cause, and carry out activities like beach cleaning drives.”


This is the road leading brands such as Adidas to the door of local influencers and champions, driven by the need to have a local face backing up their work. Sapra said that the company is always on the lookout for such meaningful partnerships, be it for the environment or for the cause of play and fitness. In sports, for instance, to take the brand’s story forward, the brand has aligned with small stars and multiple sports. The idea is to work with athletes from various disciplines, marrying the brand’s personality with the athlete’s story. In this sense, this is an influencer led approach, not an endorser or ambassador led approach.


“We let the personality’s story lead the narrative. We have different athletes with different stories. Telling their stories also helps us achieve our mantra – through sports, we can change lives,” Sapra adds.

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