Adidas CEO on the work-life balance conundrum: Wear it proudly | Business Observer

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Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted was the latest guest of honor in the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business Thought Leader Series. Normally based at the footwear and apparel giant’s headquarters in Germany, Rorsted, a Danish national, chose Tampa for his first trip to the United States since the pandemic began.

Courtesy. Kasper Rorsted, CEO of Adidas.

Rorsted, 60, took an unusual path to his leadership role at one of the world’s biggest sports brands. Prior to 2016 when he joined Adidas, he spent most of his career at IT companies such as Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle. A graduate of Harvard Business School and Copenhagen Business College in Denmark, he also sits on the board of the food and beverage conglomerate Nestlé.

Rorsted’s March 31 talk at USF covered a wide variety of topics, from work-life balance and sustainability to marketing, competition, and the transformative effects of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales. . Edited excerpts:

MARKETING: One of the keys to Adidas becoming one of the world’s most successful clothing brands, according to Rorsted, was its early decision to sponsor top athletes such as boxer Muhammad Ali, star from athletics Jesse Owens and tennis great Stan Smith – legends who transcended their sports and became cultural icons.

“We’re so happy to have sports back,” Rorsted says, adding that sports and athletes are the company’s ideal marketing vehicle, better than any advertising. Among the top 10 football (futbol) clubs in the world, half of them have agreements with Adidas.

“Sports…are the events where brands are exhibited and consumer engagement takes place,” he says. “So the platform we used as a branded vehicle was removed” during the pandemic.

E-COMMERCE: Consumer adoption of online shopping has required a massive reinvestment and reallocation of resources at Adidas, says Rorsted. Nearly 50% of the company’s sales are now direct-to-consumer, and at current rates e-commerce will account for the US equivalent of $877-987 billion in Adidas revenue by 2025.

To put that into perspective, Adidas processes an average of between 25,000 and 30,000 online orders per day. per minute.

“Competitors exist because consumers want choice. I think we can learn from everyone, all the time, so I don’t think the competition is bad. Kasper Rorsted, CEO of Adidas

“We are one of the largest Salesforce customers in the world,” says Rorsted. “But at the end of the day, we sell shoes, we sell T-shirts; we are not a digital company. We devote enormous amounts of energy, time and resources to building the best possible digital infrastructure so that any innovation is loaded with what the business stands for.

That’s not to say, however, that brick-and-mortar retail is doomed. Rorsted says consumers should expect to see more high-end, company-owned outlets, what he calls “monogram stores,” and a decline in independent, family-owned boutiques that sell footwear and gear. sport from a wide variety of brands.

SUSTAINABILITY: Adidas, says Rorsted, has set itself the goal of ensuring that nine of the 10 raw materials it uses to make shoes will be gleaned from recycled sources by 2025. The challenge? Trying to figure out how to achieve this without significant price increases for the end user.

“The consumer wants this but won’t pay more and won’t compromise on performance,” he says. “It places a huge burden on us. But you can turn the tide and say it’s also a huge opportunity for companies that have the resources to make sure innovation happens.

COMPETITION: From an outside perspective, the competitive battles between Adidas, Nike, Puma, Reebok and other major sportswear brands seem relentlessly fierce, with billions of dollars at stake when a professional team or college program ( USF sports teams are sponsored by Adidas) changes his allegiance. But Rorsted has only kind words for his rivals.

“Competitors exist because consumers want choice,” he says. “I think we can learn from everyone, all the time, so I don’t think the competition is bad.”

THE WAR IN UKRAINE: Rorsted has guided Adidas through one crisis with the pandemic, but now another – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – has disrupted business. Between the two countries, Adidas has dozens of stores and around 7,000 employees, and now it has to find a way to take care of them no matter what country they are in.


Courtesy. Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted, left, speaks with USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem during Rorsted’s visit to the college campus in Tampa on March 31.

That position might seem controversial, Rorsted says, given how the Western world has aligned itself against Vladimir Putin, but economic sanctions have also punished ordinary working-class Russians. It’s a testament to how business leaders need to think long term and big, rather than just reacting to headlines.

“We can see everything that’s going on,” he says. “But I also believe we can’t just let employees down and say it didn’t happen. We have a great obligation to people who are suffering.

WORK-LIFE BALANCE: Rorsted freely admits that he “doesn’t have a lot of work-life balance…I’m not very good at it”. But he offers a different take on the subject, saying, in essence, that there’s no point in trying to have your cake and eat it too.

Instead, Rorsted chooses to focus on two things and two things only: work and family (he is married with four children). He will not take business trips or go to movies, restaurants or football matches unless his wife and/or children can accompany him.

“I don’t see the family much from Monday to Friday,” he says. “But I’m not complaining; I love my work.”


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