Analysis of ‘Impossible is Nothing’:
An advertising campaign by adidas
Supervised by: Prepared by:
Mr. Prem Kumar Mayank Katoch C31 Pawan Agarwal D28
Ajay Pal Singh D02 Richa Kedia D36
Alok Wadhan D03 Sohini Patel D43
Mohd Mohsin Islam D18 Stuti Garg D44
Nilakshi Goel D25 Vijayendra Singh
Advertising Campaign: Impossible Is Nothing (2004)
Company: Adidas Salomon AG (Germany)
Ad agency: 180 (Amsterdam) and TBWA (San Francisco)
“IMPOSSIBLE IS JUST A BIG WORD THROWN AROUND
BY SMALL MEN WHO FIND IT EASIER TO LIVE IN THE
WORLD THEY ‘VE BEEN GIVEN THAN TO EXPLORE THE
POWER THEY HAVE TO CHANGE IT. IMPOSSIBLE IS
NOT A FACT. ITS’S AN OPINION. IMPOSSIBLE IS NOT A
DECLARATION. IT’S A DARE. IMPOSSIBLE IS POTENTIAL.
IMPOSSIBLE IS TEMPORARY…..
…..IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING”.
Genesis of the campaign:
The U.S sports apparel market has always been a happy hunting ground for domestic players like
Nike, Reebok and New Balance. Adidas, for many years has been tagged as the also ran athletic
footwear company. Problems started brewing up when in 2003, first 3 quarter sales dipped by
16%. Though later, CEO Herbert Hainer conceded that the problem had been of a persistent nature
but only this time the impact could not be ignored- 16% translated into a significant amount of
revenue loss for the German company. However, the reason behind sales plummeting in U.S was
because of a strategic droop. Basketball is arguably the most popular sport in United States and
Adidas had no association with the sport in the last ten years. The brand had kept itself aloof of the
number one crowd pulling game in America. Hainer further ceded that while operating in America
they ought to have the right product and the right ambassador. With adidas distanced away from
the sport in the first place, the brand was stuck at a dead end. Further confounding adidas, which
sponsored the 2004 Olympic Summer Games, was the loss of its sponsorship rights to the 2008
Olympics to its competitor Nike.
To gain an edge over competing brands and to reenergize its business in the United States, in 2004
Adidas Salomon AG introduced a $50 million advertising campaign—the largest ever undertaken
by the company—that included television, print, and Internet ads. With
Impossible is Nothing campaign adidas wanted to extend their philosophy of forever sport to a
personal level by encouraging everyone to overcome their personal challenges that seem
impossible. The intent of the print and outdoor campaign is to put the adidas Impossible is Nothing
mantra into people’s hands. It actually lets consumers discover the campaign piece by piece.
The campaign, brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed by 180 and TBWA, was successful in
communicating a universal message- nothing, if ever attempted, is impossible. The campaign
resonated in the minds of target audience, was envied by competitors and got many accolades at
various advertisement competitions including the coveted Cannes International Advertising
Adidas wanted to position itself as the most inspirational sports apparel and athletic footwear
brand. To translate this desire into a distinct and meaningful proposition, 180 and TBWA (global
advert agencies) worked with 22 sports icons and engaged them into sharing their journey to
success. The idea behind was to let audience know what all barriers and impediments- social,
physical and mental, these people encountered and vanquished to become what they are today.
It is through sharing these pivotal moments in their lives that people such as Mohammed Ali,
Jonah Lomu and Yelena Isinbayeva attempt to inspire others to take on their own personal
challenges. Using the stories that unfold in the campaign, adidas reminds athletes and non-athletes
from every walk of life that they can make their own “impossibles” come true. The appeal of the
message is universal in that life poses impediments and challenges regardless of profession, age,
gender and status. It emphasizes further on the act of attempting the seemingly impossible even if
the effort does not result in riches or fame. Moreover, by knowing what all obstacles one overcame
makes one’s achievements more applaudable- one who has tasted the bitter can only truly
acknowledge the sweet.
Campaign at a glance:
Impossible is Nothing
Rationale Objectives Target audience Class Media
Change and -Gain 12-34 yrs Televisio
reshape market old
consumer share in involved
perception. U.S in sports
apparel - Prolific
1. To gain an edge over the competition (Nike led U.S market at 37% share in 2003) by:
- Tapping commercial opportunities and unlocking brand value through sports which are
relevant in American context.
- To reach American consumers- 12-24 yrs bracket and increase market share-U.S.
2. To reenergize its business in the United States by:
- Positioning adidas as the most inspirational and motivational sports apparel and
3. Promoting brand adidas through prolific consumer participation.
Specific target audience:
12-34 years consumers involved in sports.
Persuasion techniques used to achieve objectives:
T.V commercials- -
Fear, guilt and insecurity: 22 professional sport stars and athletes from diverse sports share
pivotal and not pinnacle moments of their lives with the target audience. Audience get a glimpse
of the struggle and impediments these athletes went through and how they came out of them
triumphant. These revelations are truly inspiring for any one tuned into the commercial and not
just for the aspiring athletes. E.g. are Jonah Lomu and Laila Ali commercials.
- Memory and action: A common yet distinct thread of consistent style, content and execution runs
through all IIN commercials that spurs familiarity between audience and the brand.
- Narrative: The campaign, through stories of real people attempting and achieving what once
seemed like impossible goals, hopes to inspire people to think about their own obstacles and how
to overcome them. The idea is that the attempt is worth the effort and Adidas wants to be the shirt
or the shoes or the equipment that the consumer has on when attempting the impossible regardless
of the outcome.
Media vehicle selected and rationale behind it:
1. Television: class- prolifically aired on sports channel viz. ESPN STAR sports, Zee sports,
TEN sports. 180 Amsterdam and TBWA San Francisco are jointly shouldering this
globally integrated campaign. Choice of vehicle being leading sports channels seems
obvious. The frequency was increased during prime time shows such as sportscenter on
ESPN, during broadcast of UEFA Champions League matches and FIFA World Cup
owing to massive viewership of these broadcasts.
2. Internet: class- Tara Moss Internet Business Development partner for Adidas created a
unique online experience for target audience. One market research revealed that men in the
age group 18-24 yr spend more time online than watching television. Another finding in
U.S pertaining to the same age group showed that people like to multi task while watching
television- most of the times surf internet. Internet was used in the following ways to reach
the target audience.
a. own website (adidas.com): Exclusive digital
content featuring making of commercials, My
Impossible contest for audience, downloadable
content in the form of IIN wallpapers, videos.
The idea was to induce hits from first timers onto
the adidas website. Once at the website, state-of-
the-art graphics and audio ensured that the visitor
spent more time browsing through the exclusive
content of the campaign. For those already
familiar or associated with the brand it was all about getting to know their favorite
athletes more and sharing their own personal challenges and stories.
Impossible is Nothing Challenge engages young people to share and post their
impossible stories on the website. The winner with the best story as voted by internet
fraternity receives a rare reward- free kick session with David Beckham, tennis match
with Justine Henin Hardenne and a swimming lesson with Aussie ace Ian Thorpe.
b. In game advertising: With Massive, the in game advertising agency, Adidas took
advertisement to a new level by featuring its Impossible is Nothing campaign in
advanced sports games such as MLB 2K7 and NFL 2K7 which are most famous game
titles in U.S. (See image on right). The effectiveness of this marketing stint was later
measured by Massive as follows:
i. 14% increase in brand rating by gamers.
ii. 90% increase in brand message recall by gamers who saw in game
advertisement while playing game.
iii. Gamers that saw adidas advertisements while playing games rated the brand
71% higher on key brand attributes.
iv. Gamers claimed the presence of adidas adverts in titles such as MLB 2K7
improved their gaming experience by adding realism and being a natural fit in
c. Commercials aired on Yahoo, MSN and ESPN home pages: The Ali vs Ali
commercial (first one) was aired for a limited period on the web sites. On the day the
Laila commercial featured online there was a 125% increase in the use of search term
“ADIDAS” on the yahoo home page (Highest no. of request were from men aged
between 13- 17 years).
Rationale: No store/shelf
space issues: With a rich
repertoire of athletic footwear
and apparel up its sleeves,
showcasing the same via online
eliminates issues related to
negotiating shelf space or
setting up a new store. Further
with help of cutting edge
technology, footwear models
can be examined with 360
degree rotational view along
with detailed information. This brings the customer almost parallel to examining a product
3. Outdoor: Using groundbreaking
tactics such as billboard soccer,
building climbing, expansive wall
scrapers and topiary styled
billboards are part of the adidas
arsenal. These avant garde
techniques have been successful
in capturing the undivided
attention of the audience.
In Japan, TBWA came up with a unique concept of outdoor advertising. Two local football
enthusiasts were hung from a billboard wearing harness and were to play football for ten
minutes each. The incredible act caught the attention of commuters and froze traffic for 70
minutes. (See picture on right)
Another extremely effective outdoor advertisement was taken up in 2006 in Germany as the nation
was preparing to host FIFA World Cup. Huge arch like structures across roadsides with Oliver
Kahn’s image were put up to inspire the German team ahead of the tournament. (See pictures on
right and below)
Endorsements: Professional athletes and sport stars- celebrities in their own rights have been core
to the campaign in every form. Their association with the brand also serves a testimonial to the
unmatchable quality of footwear and apparel range.
Event management/ sponsorship organized and the intended objective:
Official sponsor of FIFA World Cup 2006- To leverage brand to match the magnitude of the event.
Take brand across to all football playing nations. Also wanted to capture the incredible passion for
football that is shared by billions of fans around the world.
Official sponsor of Olympics 2004- adidas came up with 3 superb commercials leading up to the
event featuring Olympic legends such as Jesse Owens and Nadia Comaneci. Olympics winners
epitomize the desire to break grounds and set new limits which is also shared by adidas. Through
these commercials adidas attempts to inspire the young to test their limits.
Official kit sponsor of Europe’s heavyweight professional football clubs such as Real Madrid
(Spain), A.C Milan (Italy), Liverpool
(England) and Bayern Munich
Main sponsor of New Zealand’s national
rugby team ‘The All Blacks’
Official kit sponsor of Argentina’s
national rugby team.
Main and official kit sponsor of
Australian national cricket team and
England’s cricket team.
Sponsored London Marathon
Summer Olympics China 2008
Ad involvement: Most liked
and involving campaign
over campaign period when
all competitors were active.
% market share increase in top 5 European markets:
Brand Appeal through campaign:
Only brand or one of first 5% increase
Definitely my kind of brand 3% increase