Adidas AG aims to increase its marketings by 40 million pairs of sneakers annually, to more than a half-billion by 2020, largely by appealing to fashion-conscious teens and urban hipsters. At the very heart of that effort: a decades-old shoe named after a retired tennis musician who live in South Carolina and hasn’t won a major singles tournament since 1980.

The shoe is the Stan Smith, a white-leather number with pale green accents introduced in 1971, the year before Stan Smith( the musician , now 70) earned his second and last Grand Slam singles title. Thanks to a well-orchestrated promotional blitz, this unlikely hero has attained one of the greatest comebacks in marketing history, from a waning brand popular with suburban papas into a must-have for the fashion-savvy. As they rev up an effort to catch Nike Inc ., Adidas executives are seeking to replicate parts of the campaign to stoke interest in other shoes.” We wanted to position it anew with fashion designer and trendsetters ,” says Arthur Hoeld, who heads Adidas’s brand strategy and business development.” This is part of the concept — to push frontiers, to experiment .”

As Adidas was planning the Stan Smith revival about five years ago, the shoe was still selling, though it was proving up more frequently at discount store. The mood around the company was that the simulate had lost its mojo, but Hoeld and a handful of other executives recognized its potential, their trust bolstered by reports that Phoebe Philo, creative director of the Celine fashion house, had been spotted sporting Stan Smiths at her proves. So Hoeld’s team outlined a campaign designed to look grassroots but which was in fact choreographed from start to finish with one of the objectives of attaining the shoes de rigueur for people whose mothers may be too young to recall the last day Smith played at Centre Court.

Personal Touch

The first step was counterintuitive: Adidas drew the shoe from world markets in 2012, leaving clients with the impression the move was permanent. By mid-2 013, Stan Smiths were almost impossible to find, prompting angry letters from devotees — and spurring Smith and some on Hoeld’s team to question the wisdom of the scheme. Late that year, Adidas began shipping a new version to dozens of celebrities it had worked with, including singer A$ AP Rocky, decorator Alexander Wang, and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. The freebies included a personalized touch are aiming to get the stars to wear them: A describe of Smith on the tongue was replaced by an image of each recipient. Adidas struck amber in November 2013, when French Vogue featured simulate Gisele Bundchen sporting nothing but a pair of white socks — and Stan Smiths. About the same day, Adidas released a two-minute web video featuring actors and athletics stars waxing poetic about the sneakers.” People reckon I’m a shoe ,” Smith laments in the clip, recalling that his son once asked,”‘ Dad, did they name the shoe when you are or you after the shoe ?'”

The first new models, priced at about $90, hewed closely to the simplicity of the original, with a white torso and a touch of color on the tongue and heel. In early 2014, Adidas started shipping them to shops catering to hardcore sneaker devotees, followed by specialty footwear retailers and, months later, department stores and big-box outlets. Afterward that year, the company steadily added spinoffs — Stan Smiths in high heels, faux crocodile skin, and honeycomb leather, as well as 10 pairs hand-painted by singer Pharrell Williams and sold at the Colette fashion boutique in Paris for EUR5 00 ($ 545 ). In 2015, Adidas introduced variants aimed at specific age groups and tastes: simulated ostrich leather, Velcro closures, white with pink accents, blue pony mane heel tab — even one featuring Kermit the Frog.” We want a consumer to buy three or four or five pairs ,” says Eric Liedtke, Adidas’s world brand chief.

50 Million

Adidas aims to increase revenue to more than EUR2 five billion in 2020, from EUR1 9.3 billion in 2016. The Stan Smith has been a big help. Sales of the shoe jump-start dramatically, to 8 million pairs, in 2015, bringing total sales over the past four decades to more than 50 million. While the company hasn’t released figures, researcher NPD Group Inc. calculates U.S. marketings rose fivefold last year. Adidas says sales of its Originals collection, which includes the Stan Smith and the other top-selling retro simulate called the Superstar, popularized by rappers Run-DMC, increased by 80 percent in the U.S. last year, more than three times faster than footwear for team athletics such as basketball and American football.

Analysts estimate that the company will report a 13 percent increased number of first-quarter marketings when it furnishes a financial update Thursday, assisted by strong momentum for shoes from the Tubular, NMD and Boost lines.

Dipping into the archives isn’t rare in athletics way. Adidas created the Originals line more than ten years ago, selling everything from shiny’ 70 s track suits to Gerd Muller soccer shoes. Smaller rival Puma SE went further by collaborating with designers such as Alexander McQueen. As the concept of athletics way became ubiquitous — Prada SpA, Louis Vuitton, and other brands now sell luxury sneakers — Puma alienated serious jocks looking for shoes aimed more at improving performance on the track than the runway. Over the past few decades, Puma’s profit margin has collapsed from more than 25 percent to about 5 percent today.

As sales of the Stan Smith and the Superstar start to wane, Adidas plans to pump up other throwbacks from the back of its closet: the 1950 indoor soccer shoe Samba, the suede Gazelle dating to the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, and the Campus, worn by one of the Beastie Boys on the encompas of 1992′ s Check Your Head. Adidas has ” great retro shoes in the vault ,” says NPD analyst Matt Powell. And at least one former skeptic has come around to the idea.” I believed there was no way 14 – to 24 -year-olds would relate to me, so I thought it was a bad strategy ,” Smith says.” I’ve been proven wrong. Big day .”

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