[caption id="attachment_1757" align="alignright" width="300"]These are literally My Adidas.[/caption]
The Tennessee Titans' recent signing of Dexter McCluster got me thinking about one of my favorite branding stories. Dexter McCluster's nickname, "Run-DMC," is a play off his name and the fact that he runs for a living. Run-DMC, of course, is also the name of a world famous, ground breaking hip-hop group, which happens to be one of my childhood favorites. While Run-DMC might take issue with McCluster using the group's trademark as a nickname (particularly on merch), they don't necessarily need to. They can take a page from their own history book and find a way to partner with McCluster instead of causing a stink. That is exactly what Adidas did with Run-DMC almost thirty years ago.
Run-DMC was instrumental in bringing hip-hop into the mainstream. Their music appealed to a wide demographic and they smashed through genre barriers (and an actual wall in the video) to record the Aerosmith classic, "Walk this Way," with the famous rock and roll band. Run-DMC was known for their matching outfits, and particularly their Adidas "Superstar" model tennis shoes, which they wore with no laces. In 1986, Run-DMC released a song, My Adidas, which touted the group's exploits in their Adidas Superstars. Adidas could have reacted in any number of ways. But Adidas decided to partner with Run-DMC, awarding them the first main stream corporate endorsement deal given to a hip-hop artist. It was a win-win. Adidas sold untold pairs of Superstars. Run-DMC got a helicopter.
The effects of this deal are long lasting. Superstars are still available and very popular. Adidas released a 25th Anniversary model with Run-DMC badging, the result of more trademark licensing. Last summer, my lovely and generous wife procured front row tickets and backstage passes to a Run DMC show for my birthday. We both bought brand new Superstars for the show and DMC signed both pairs (thanks again, honey!). Almost everyone at the concert had a brand new pair of Superstars.
Many times, swift and aggressive action is the best course of action for protecting your trademarks. Sometimes, however, finding creative win-win situations can bring much more success.
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