adidas Originals Superstar

The South African Creative Team Behind adidas #OriginalSuperstar 2015



This year adidas Originals brings back one of its most iconic shoes, the Superstar, with a global campaign questioning what it means to be a superstar in 2015.


When the Superstar shoe was first launched by adidas back in 1969, the word ‘Superstar’ was unambiguous. Today, the word has been corrupted to the point of confusion and this year adidas Originals sets out to question what it truly means to be a superstar, flipping the theory of what society believes to be ‘superstardom’ on its head.


The campaign launched with a 90 second short film by Swiss director Karim Huu Do featuring David Beckham, Pharrell Williams, Rita Ora and Damian Lillard. Created by New York City ad agency Johannes Leonardo, the campaign was conceptualised by South African creative team there – Wesley Phelan and Matt Edwards – who we spoke to to find out more about the thinking behind their idea and what went into realising it.


How did you both come to be working in New York City, working together, and working on this project?


We previously worked together in Johannesburg, before Matt moved over to Prague as a Creative Director at Y&R. Wesley continued at MetropolitanRepublic as creative director until a skype meeting with renowned CCO Jan Jacobs persuaded him to move to New York City. After a few months Wesley sent word to Prague that it was safe for Matt to make the move to Johannes Leonardo.


After working on successful global campaigns for both Trident gum and Trip Advisor, we got the opportunity to pitch on the adidas Originals business. We won the pitch and almost immediately moved into production.


What was the brief from adidas?


The brief was to come up with a year long campaign for adidas Originals that focused on the classic silhouette of the Superstar and utilised various adidas talent assets. The focus was definitely on creating a thought provoking piece rather than another celebratory fashion commercial. We felt like they were looking to start to a conversation.


Could you let us in on some of the strategy and thinking behind the concept?


One of the most interesting things we found while working on the campaign, was a study that was conducted in London over the course of 20 years. The study asked a large portion of high school students what they wanted to be when they grew up and the top three career goals were doctor, banker and teacher. The same study conducted 20 years later found that kids wanted to be popstars, film stars and sports stars. This made it clear to us that the current climate of youth culture was undoubtedly based on a quest for external validation, something that has been brewing for a long time but now with social media has been accelerated to new heights. So although the shoe we were given to work on was called the Superstar, the current meaning of this word is something we didn’t want to associate with.


This lead us to want to redefine the word, not as a brand preaching, but more starting the conversation and letting the public make up their own definitions. What better way than to take a number of current ‘superstars’ and get them to dispel a number of things associated with superstardom.


The superstars featured in the campaign all have previous associations with adidas but what else about them made them the right choices for this campaign in particular?


Pharrell is undoubtedly the worlds biggest superstar at the moment. David Beckham is one of the most globally recognised figures in the world. Damian Lillard and Rita Ora are almost the next generation of Superstars. All of them are no stranger to the limelight and it’s because of this that we felt they would create the biggest buzz by stating that they are in fact not superstars by the current definition.


What about Karim Huu Do’s work made him great to shoot this film? What was it like working with him, and how much did he contribute to your original vision for the piece?


Once we had the narrative we discussed the project with Karim, we had seen his piece with Last Night in Paris and really loved the grit and realness of it and were blown away by the subtle sci-fi he had created. We tried to be as open as possible as far as direction went, we really wanted him to treat it like a short film rather than a commercial. This was the brief for all the creatives involved. Working with someone like Cliff Martinez (Martinez’s film scores include Drive, Only God Forgives, Contagion, Solaris and Traffic) was a similar process, we asked him to score it more like a film than to create a track for a TV ad. Luckily we had a great a client who was willing to come with us on the journey.


What were some of the challenges and alternatively the highlights during the process?


One of the biggest challenges of producing this piece was undoubtedly the schedules of the celebrity assets. We had to work around their jam-packed days to perfectly plan our shot lists. The highlight of the process was being able to workshop our ideas with the actual stars themselves before stepping on set. Skyping with Pharrell before the shoot and talking through the campaign is one of the things that we really enjoyed, he shared his opinion and wisdom. Meeting the superstars in person was inspiring as they all had an amazing energy and presence. On set, due to our immense time pressure, we had to set up portable audio booths to record dialogue then quickly move into the print studio which was built on location and finally we were able to lay down the film. The stars were complete professionals so we too had to be on top form to make sure we maximised our limited time with them.


What are some of the online conversations you’d like to see sparked by this campaign?


I guess for us going back to the original idea of the campaign, as a brand we wanted adidas to ignite the conversation and add fuel to it throughout the year, without ever casting a definite opinion on the subject. For us the most exciting online posts are when we see consumers post about finding their internal creative courage and that’s what makes them a superstar.




Agency: Johannes Leonardo
Chief Creative Officer: Jan Jacobs
Client: adidas
Chief Creative Officer: Leo Premutico
Executive Creative Director: Tom Martin
Executive Creative Director: Julian Schreiber
Creative Director: Ferdinando Verderi
Creative: Matt Edwards
Creative: Wes Phelan
Business Director: Carter Collins
Broadcast Executive Producer: Cedric Gairard
Print Executive Producer: Maria Perez
Integrated Producer: Peisin Yang Lazo
Strategist: Jennifer Colman
Designer: Andrea Gustafson
Designer: David Kerr
Designer: Annette Lay
Production Company: Caviar
Director: Karim Huu Do


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