Left to right, me, Mr Dassler and Craig.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the adidas Archives at their Head Quarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. I went with Craig Butler the designer of the AOA books and actually it was the first time I had talked to him in person, which I guess isn't that unusual when you think of the trainer community and how we interact on social media. I have to say we got on great and he is a really top lad as well as being very creative. We arrived the evening before, stopping in a hotel in Nuremburg, the largest city nearby and where many adidas employees actually live, as Herzogenaurach is so small. After a chat, a meal and a few drinks I retired for the night hoping to get some quality sleep but knowing full well I'd be like a kid the night before Christmas! It is something that as an adidas fan I have dreamt of doing for a long time, especially after seeing the pictures of the archives when other people have visited. In case you are now madly scrambling to book a flight to Nuremburg, you have to know it is by invite only! That isn't because adidas don't care about their consumers, in fact I discovered during my day actually how much respect they do have for collectors. It's because this is a fully functioning corporate HQ where design, business, finance, research, legal, HR etc. all take place. So tours of the campus (as they call it) are guided by staff which takes up a lot of their time. Also while I wouldn't say it is top secret there were certain areas where photography was forbidden - because who knows what unreleased product you might snap in the background that adidas are currently working on!
This library had books about the history of sport, sports heroes, rules of sport, fashion, design, marketing and of course the brand itself. It wouldn't have been complete without a copy of AOA Volume 1 of course!
In the morning Martin H from adidas picked us up at our hotel and on the drive I discovered how passionate and knowledgeable about the brand he really was. After a short delay at the company car park we were inside getting our visitor passes. We then met the other adidas History Management staff including the other Martin (Martin G), had a look at their offices and took a walk around the campus which is actually a converted former US Army base. It is leafy, spacious and surprisingly calm. I imagine that it would be a lot different for some professionals who may be used to the hustle and bustle of a cosmopolitan city like London, Tokyo or New York but to me and I imagine many others that was the attraction. Martin G was telling me that when the rebuilt and expanded the adidas HQ that made the decision to stay true to their roots and keep it Herzogenaurach, which I think Adi himself would have liked. By the way the original adidas office still exists and is across town and can still be viewed.
Calm and serene at adidas HQ
I strolled around in a half-daze while we stopped at the tourist spots for obligatory photos;- including the giant trefoil advertising light and the bronzed stature of the great man himself. The adidas campus is pretty big and there are lot of facilities like a gym, a running track, tennis courts and a football stadium. Visiting athletes can train or try out new shoes, but employees are also encouraged to participate in sports. Many of the office buildings are converted and modernised army barracks, town houses and offices and they certainly had a charm;- sometimes situated in leafy open spaces, sometimes in neat rows but always with a mixture of former military functionality and Franconian design. There were also new purpose built buildings including an open plan exhibition (which gives a visitor a whistle stop tour of the brands history) and the large central offices which were a sight to behold. Arranged on several levels with bridges allowing easy access between offices, it bustled with creativity and excitement. Having said that it had a real calm feeling about it and people seemed to go around with a smile on their faces. The brand encourages both freedom of expression but also a flexible approach to working, with employees working hours to suit them and in a style that brings the best out of them. A nice was touch was a kindergarten on campus for the employees children. If you didn't want to work in your office you could easily take your laptop to a quiet seated area to muse or an eating area to meet with other employees while enjoying a coffee. I imagine at times as with any business there would be stress and deadlines but it all seemed a world away from my own drab office meetings and work place! The floor space near the front also doubled up as a seminar area and talks were held regularly on company ethos, branding and creativity. If any high ranking adidas bosses ever read this I'd just like to say I feel you are getting it right!
That is the end of part one, I'll return with part two shortly.