Day 3: Adidas
Our final stop on the Career Trek was a visit to Adidas’ only North American screen printing showroom and factory. I was especially excited to tour Adidas because it most closely fits my ideal career path (as the engineer behind new athletic footwear and apparel). Going into the day, I had a decent background in Adidas’s company bio and business goals as Notre Dame and Adidas go way back. Back in November, I attended an on-campus Adidas information session, where I learned all about Adidas’ game plan Generation US 2015.
The goal of Generation US 2015 is to “win the hearts and minds of high school kids on the field and in the hallway,” or basically get the popular high school kids to wear Adidas. I thought this was also a very intelligent idea, but I never found out how they were planning to convert the high schoolers from most likely Nike to Adidas.
Well anyway, unfortunately, our Notre Dame Career Trek took place within weeks after Notre Dame broke the 17 year relationship with Adidas to join a contract with Under Armour (which I am SO excited about! Who loves Under Armour?…THIS GIRL!!!). So needless to say there was definitely some awkwardness. In fact one of the first things our host said as we walked into the conference room covered in uniforms of Adidas licensed schools was, “Yeah, our office used to be all Notre Dame… and then we took it all down.”
Still, the trip was extremely informative. Because the Indianapolis office was mostly about screen printing, we followed the process of a tshirt from sketches to shipping. First we heard about the design process. In order to come up with a concept, a team of a few but extremely talented graphic designers gather inspiration by combining the popular trends with inspiration from visiting the teams and campuses. It is interesting to note that what comes out as new gear for the season has actually been designed at least a year ago. Once the design is finalized, the tshirt is sent to the legal team which has to approve logos, phrases, landmarks… literally everything. Often the shirt is designed for a specific school say Michigan. Adidas will then “blowout” or “breakout” the tshirt (aka switch the colors) for their other top 13 licensed schools.
Next we heard about the ordering and distribution side of the business. In sports apparel there are 2 major distinctions for products based on the timeline for completion:
- finished goods: Think everything you see when you walk into Sports Authority or Dicks Sporting Goods.
- the hot market: Think the hats and tshirts teams put on two seconds after they win the Superbowl, but this also includes new jerseys for major trades, or other unpredicted events like Linsanity
Naturally we had to ask about how the losing team’s championship tshirts end up in Africa. First off, Adidas tries to limit the number of pre-produced items, so instead they will rent out a screen printing company in the city of the championship and stockpile blank tshirts in both team’s colors. This way they can wait until the last minute possible to begin printing. Rules for preprinted goods for the losing team are actually pretty strict: either they must be destroyed or they are sent to World Vision to be distributed overseas.
Finally, we toured the actual factory and saw how the screens are made. See the below youtube video, for a good overview on screen printing.
Overall, the Sports Career Trek over my spring break was an extremely beneficial experience. I definitely did learn new commonly used terms in the industry, but the main points about breaking into the sports industry were exactly as I expected: the sports industry is small, well-connected, and difficult to break into, thus the key to getting a job is networking.