How Adidas fixed its biggest mistake and became the second-biggest sportswear company in the US



Adidas fixed some pretty big mistakes to become North America's second-largest sportswear maker in 2016.

Chief among them: the company wasn't giving the American market the attention it deserves, according to the company's North American president, Mark King.

"I think the biggest mistake - and honestly it was a big mistake - was that we didn't make North America the No.1 priority for the company," King recently told Business Insider.

North America buys the lion's share of sports apparel, shoes, and equipment. It represents 40% of the worldwide sports market, according to industry estimates.


"We didn't really treat it with the respect that we needed to," King said.

Adidas, a German company, primarily invested in European-centric sports like soccer. It maintains a top position through much of the rest of the world in this category. This "makes us the legitimate sports brand, which gives us a great platform to do our business" in those regions, King said.

Soccer, however, is nowhere near as popular in the US. So when Adidas decided to make the US market its biggest priority worldwide, it needed to adapt to US tastes.

"We were using the same model here as we were using everywhere else, and it was not very effective," King said.

To Adidas, this shifting strategy meant that the company started to "over-invest" in the US compared to other regions, and it generally looked at the consumer through the lens of the US and North America. The company built up design, development, and other infrastructure in the US in order to make products within that market first priority. In some cases, it designed products specifically for the US.


The strategy seems to have paid off for the company, at least in the short term. Adidas' US sales were up 30% year over year by the end of 2016.

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