HERZOGENAURACH, Germany (Reuters) – A new generation of more international Adidas executives is trying to loosen a hierarchical structure that has held back creativity at the venerable German sports brand as it tries to retaliate against Nike.
But that is a tall order for a company of 52,500 employees still based in the small Bavarian town where it was founded in 1949, now struggling to keep pace with the fast-changing whims of the urban teens who are its target clientele.
“The whole organisation is run so Germanically and is not fast and agile where everybody is empowered,” said Erich Joachimsthaler, head of strategy consultants Vivaldi Partners.
As disappointing performance, particularly in the US market, has hammered the share price of late, long-serving Chief Executive Herbert Hainer, 60, has promoted a raft of younger managers ahead of his own expected retirement in 2017.
Leading the new guard are 47-year-old American Eric Liedtke, global brand chief since March, and Roland Auschel, the 51-year-old German named as sales chief a year ago.
Forced to ditch ambitious targets set for 2015, Liedtke and Auschel are working with Hainer on a new five-year strategy to be presented in March, but they are taking action already.
Adidas and smaller sportswear rival Puma are still based in sleepy Herzogenaurach, Germany, where they were founded by two brothers who fell out with each other after World War Two.
Liedtke has moved several executives to the firm’s US base in trendy Portland, home to Nike, as he seeks to reverse the brand’s decline in the world’s top sportswear market, important not only for sales but also for defining global cool.
Despite buying US brand Reebok in 2006, the German firm that is strongest in soccer has struggled to break into sports like basketball and American football, recently slipping into third place in the United States behind Nike and fast-growing Under Armour, founded only in 1996.