SHOWCASE: Adidas a3 shoe launch - Adidas chose the London Marathon to demonstrate the new technology of its a3 performance shoe. Mike Fletcher reports

Adidas UK kicked off its association with this year's Flora London Marathon with the launch of the a3 performance running shoe. The trainer, which features new technology, was unveiled at Battersea Running Track during the first week of April and was showcased on the Adidas stand during the race registration event, Marathon Expo at London Arena, which ran from 10-13 April.

About 60,000 people came to the exhibition, made up from the 36,000 runners plus their friends and families. It was the first time the a3 shoe had been shown to the public prior to its high street roll-out, which is due in August.

Adidas UK running track and field sports marketing manager Mark Sinclair says: "We wanted to promote its new technology before we began to focus on the fashion side. It is a shoe that initially cushions the foot before guiding it and driving it forward. The shoe's cushioning and guidance elements are separated and work independently from each other, which is a first for the footwear industry."

Adidas sponsors seven annual city marathons around the world, three of which took place last month in London, Paris and Boston. The a3 shoe was launched and exhibited at each event but London's Marathon Expo featured a special one-off stand.

Agency RPM designed and built a 330 sq m area in the shape of the a3 logo in which runners could experience the shoe in a series of features.

"It is being launched at marathons because we felt it would give the shoe its true running credentials. We have developed technology that can be used to train for, and then run 26.2 miles. It will then be translated into other sporting uses,

says Sinclair. "The London Marathon is the highest profile race in the world so it was important we had a presence that stood out from the generic stand being used at the other events."

The average age of runners in this year's London Marathon was 39.8 years old so Adidas needed to promote the shoe to a well-educated, affluent audience that may not like being advertised to.

RPM director Lee Farrant says: "We had to help Adidas communicate with the runners at grass roots level and show the positive benefits of the shoe and the brand. Marathon athletes relate to the benefits of a healthy existence so we created areas called Wellness Performance and Running Performance to associate the shoe with the lifestyle of the brand."

The Adidas UK headquarters features its own Wellness Centre and members of that team staffed the stand areas. Runners could have their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and general fitness checked before moving on to the Running Performance area to have their ideal marathon pace assessed. Another part of the stand enabled visitors to have their foot stride analysed.

"It brings an experience to the exhibition,

Sinclair says. "You are getting something for free that is normally only available via private healthcare."

Visitors were also able to swap their old shoes for a pair of the new a3 performance trainers and experience the technology without a hard sell.

"The stand is 75% bigger than it was last year and its branding translates the above-the-line campaign into an exhibition presence. Adidas feels it has really communicated with all 36,000 runners in a positive and effective way,

adds RPM's Farrant.

Other elements of the sponsorship package for the London Marathon included branding on every route to the Marathon Expo, including train stations and roads, and a strong presence on race day around the course.

Elements of the stand will be used at the Dublin marathon in the autumn as the Irish exhibition is not on the same scale as the London event.

By autumn, however, the PR machine will be in top gear and Adidas hopes to have firmly left its footprint on the world of endurance running as well as in every high street fashion retail outlet in the UK.

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