Born in Italy, Silvia Calligher began her career in high fashion public relations. Having started working for adidas in 2005, Calligher now leads the global PR, social media and trend teams on the strategic development and implementation of all brand campaigns, launches and events, alongside collaborations and designer partnerships. With over ten years of communications experience, Silvia's in-depth knowledge of the brand and forward-thinking strategic approach to PR and social media has been instrumental in the innovative public perception of Originals. In the 101GreatMinds interview, she pulls back the curtain on the brand's two award-winning 90-second campaigns and less well-known music initiatives of the German sportswear brand.
Reese: Silvia, can you tell me a little bit about Trend Marketing at Originals and why you think it’s so important?
Calligher: Trend marketing is a Global division set up to position adidas in a forward-thinking way and as an aspirational top-end brand to an opinion leading audience. The department is tasked with creating high-value content and building key relationships by working with high-end partners and media while demonstrating how adidas relates to culture, both historically and contemporarily. Because of the nature of trend marketing, the team is very active when it comes to music. And as opposed to the other departments, our team doesn’t have the same commercial pressure. We have more freedom to work not only on specific campaigns or products, but also to quickly and interactively react to cultural opportunities. It’s those types of opportunities that can really add value to the brand.
Reese: When it comes to collaborating with artists, it seems like with adidas it’s about law of attraction instead of promotion. Artists just gravitate towards the brand. What’s the secret?
Calligher: I think this is for a few reasons. Firstly, the association of music with our brand has always been quite natural, starting in the 1960s. We didn’t seek out this relationship. Instead, the music came to us. Certain musicians have always had a natural affinity for our brand. John Lennon, for example, was wearing adidas shoes in the picture of the “Strawberry Fields Forever” single in 1967, or if you think of Run DMC – we were the first sportswear brand to collaborate with a rap group. The second thing is inclusion and the celebration of individuality. Music is important to the brand but even more important is the individual artist. The name “Originals” stands for celebrating authenticity, but also for originality and individuality. It’s very important to us to not impose a certain style on the individual. If I were an artist, I would want a brand like that to collaborate with me. At the same time, with the range of products that we offer and the fact that we are so multi-faceted, I think everybody can find resonance. The gazelle, for example, is a shoe that is incredibly important when it comes to reggae music. But we also became important for rock and metal bands when Korn dedicated a song to us, or to pop music with Jamiroquai. I think it is the nature of our brand to be inclusive and, again, not to impose a certain style but allowing the artists – whether they’re designers or musicians – to be free and create something that represents themselves.
Reese: Looking at the Your Future Is Not Mine and Originals Is Never Finished spots in which music plays a key role. I ask myself: is this sound branding 4.0? Is adidas doing something we don’t quite understand yet?
Calligher: I think it’s not about music but about the creative approach we have as a brand. We are always wanting to challenge the status quo. An example of this is Songs From Scratch. Two artists, who collaborate for the very first time, create a track. This track is then left completely to the artists to use on their channels – we don’t impose our branding on them. We enable two artists to come together and let them create something new. I think challenging the status quo and letting people be free to be themselves leads to success – no matter if it’s in arts, music or design. It’s also significant because of its emotional power, which is very important in advertising and in culture in general. The fact that adidas never stuck to only one style of music but has always acted very inclusively is what makes the brand so contemporary today, in times of globalization, where all different kinds of music are available. When you look at how easily accessible music is today, selecting the music that is relevant becomes the real challenge.
Reese: Looking at the next five years, which role will music play in the future from a social media point of view?
Calligher: The music industry changes in time and so does the way we do marketing, of course. I might not be able to tell you what’s going to happen in the future, but I do think it’s going to be more and more about integration and inclusion. I think music will be more integrated in what we do, even in marketing.
Reese: If you think of the three stripes and audio. This state of mind of 'challenging the status quo' – would this be the sonic DNA of Originals?
Calligher: Correct. It’s not about a specific kind of music, it’s about a specific track that’s created by an artist. It’s really about sharing value.
Reese: Using the song My Way in Original Is Never Finished is also challenging the status quo. There must have been a lot of strategic thinking behind it. How did you go about that?
Calligher: Well, you could strategize it but that could never be as crucial as all the creativity behind it. I don’t think that the decision whether to use My Way or not would have ever come from any strategic market research and that’s what makes it so difficult. A creative process works so differently. Even if you do market research, you’re never going to come to that specific result. It was definitely a creative mind that came up with the idea. We probably had the right people in place (laughs).
Reese: How do you know that the ideas you come up with will speak to the consumer?
Calligher: When you work in marketing, you must think about who your consumer is. At the moment our brand has so many different consumers due to our wide range of products that there’s no way we could speak to them through different languages or to think about what they really need or want. It’s more about what is authentic and rhythmic with everybody, it’s not about the adidas consumer. If you showed that spot to people who are not in our target group, they are going to have goosebumps too. Again, it’s all about an authentic creative process, about not thinking in a marketing way and about going beyond the boundaries.
Reese: Does it affect shareability?
Calligher: Oh yes, because it’s emotional. Music touches feelings, the emotional core that we all have. It just needs to be authentic. If you produce a package which is designed to reach your target consumer, I’m sure you can have great results, but I don’t think you can have that emotional involvement or emotional resonance with your consumer. I think it’s really a different way of working: marketing analytics versus marketing addressed in the emotional way.
Reese: That reminds me of the film you did for adidas SPEZIAL campaign. Can you tell me a little about that?
Calligher: In Trend Marketing, we work on smaller projects that are less known and have small budget but add a lot of value to music. We have a collection called Spezial with adidas Originals for which we did this incredible campaign with Chronixx, a Jamaican reggae singer. It’s a five-minute film that was shot between Kingston, Jamaica, and Lancashire, UK and speaks to Chronixx’ ideology which is true to adidas Originals evolvement “roots and culture is what connects us to creation and creator". SPEZIAL turned its attention to the parallels between British casual culture and Jamaican reggae culture. Two cultures which, at first glance, seem glaringly different but share a host of commonalities. It’s a great how natural the involvement of Chronixx is in this campaign. And what’s interesting is how long people watch the video although the consumer’s attention span is only 20 seconds. So, if you produce content with upcoming musicians in a partnership way, not to using them as brand ambassadors only, but rather having a conversation with them, creating a natural resonance with the content, you can achieve incredible success.
Reese: If you think about Johannes Leonardo, how is this agency different from others?
Calligher: I would say working with their art director, Ferdinando Verderi, makes the difference. He’s very unique. Also, Johannes Leonardo are never stopped by the budget or the briefing. They work in a very visionary way to give us more options and always add something to the given frame. This freedom in the creation and the link they have with the brand really makes the difference – they’re an extension of our team, in a way.