Dressed for success at Games

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2008, 12:00am

Entire workforce at sportswear company prepares Olympic kit

While world-class athletes will take centre-stage this summer in Beijing, there's another aspect to the Olympics that cannot be overlooked. The 'look of the Games' will be just as memorable as performances on the field. Sportswear giant adidas is contributing to the 'look' by providing uniforms for the 130,000 volunteers, organising staff and officials for the Olympics and Paralympics. It's a formidable task for the company's 1,300 staff on the mainland.

The German company will produce more than 2 million official products, which it claims is the largest ever contribution by a sportswear sponsorship partner. Adidas has also produced a range of Olympic apparel for sale in stores.

'It's a very significant investment, and staff from all areas of the company have been involved,' said Erica Kerner, director of the adidas Beijing 2008 Olympic Programme.

'From product design development to marketing, public relations, production, sourcing, delivery and factories, we are using our full China workforce,' added the New Yorker, who has lived and worked on the mainland for 17 years, and in sports apparel marketing for eight years.

When the uniforms are distributed next month it will mark the climax of a three-year process. Consistency with other design applications across the Games was essential and the uniforms, in either blue (volunteers), red (organising staff), or grey (technical officials), feature the 'lucky cloud' pattern, also used for the Olympic torch. Each volunteer, or staff member, will receive a set including T-shirt, jacket, pants, cap, socks, shoes, waist bag and water jug. 'The volunteers are the face of the Games, providing directions and interacting with visitors,' said Ms Kerner, whose team earned a CCTV sports marketing achievement award for the 'Best Campaign to Launch an Olympic Partnership'. 'The uniforms need to be easily identifiable, and with a youthful and energetic appeal.'

Experience working with other organising committees, such as world soccer's governing body Fifa was important in its selection as a partner. Adidas, whose shoes were used at the Olympics for the first time in 1928, provided the official sportswear for Athens 2004 and will do the same for London 2012.

'We did a learning exchange at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany, and we will do the same again for the World Cup in South Africa 2010. 'We will take all this acquired knowledge to the 2012 Olympics in London. This experience has made us an ideal partner,' said Ms Kerner, who previously worked as director of marketing and communications for the Special Olympics East Asia.

'For project staffing, I think you need a good mix of Olympic and China experience, and our core office team of 25 people has that. We have brought the top performers from other divisions to join the Olympic team. Everyone in the company has Olympic responsibilities and it will touch on every single person in every single department.'

Including Reebok and Taylor Made (golf products), which are part of the group, adidas has 1,300 staff on the mainland. The company has big plans for expansion on the mainland and 'we are recruiting in every department', Ms Kerner said. 'In addition to our headquarters in Shanghai, we have an office in Guangzhou and plan to open new ones in other cities. Every department is growing to keep up, and we are especially seeking more sales staff, customer service, logistics, marketing and in HR, finance and operations.

'The Olympics has been great for recruitment and retention, the best for bringing in new staff who are happy to be working on interesting projects such as liaising with organisers, business-to-business licensing and on the design teams. We built a team where each individual is working in their area of strength.

'We will invest a lot in making sure all our staff are made to be part of the Games, updating them with competition information and company-related Olympic news. It is important that everyone is part of it. We have staff events every month, such as trips to test events and the recent mini-Olympics, for employees and their families. Every one of our employees will come to Beijing to get a taste of at least one Olympic event.'

Mainland staff nominated colleagues to take part in the domestic leg of the torch relay, and four were chosen to carry the flame.

'It's been a fantastic opportunity for the operations team and watching the excitement grow over the past four years has been a joy,' Ms Kerner said. 'There has been a lot of hard work but we are close now, and you can taste the anticipation. It's been a once-in-a-lifetime project for all.'

This is the last in a five-part series on the Beijing 2008 Olympics.