Jan Runau
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20 years of adidas Streetball – a success story

20 years of adidas Streetball – a success story

“Basketball is the game of the game in Germany,“ wrote the Berlin newspaper ‘Tagesspiegel’ in August 1992. “The magic word is Streetball. It’s mega-in.” Streetball was a summer phenomenon around the world for several years in the 1990s; in some countries it still is, even in the new century. This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of adidas Streetball. The first tournament in Germany took place on August 22nd and 23rd, 1992, in front of the ‘Palast der Republik’ right in the heart of (the eastern part of) Berlin. StreetbalI was basketball in the streets, but much more than that: it was the biggest event and PR campaign of its kind ever launched. And I – in my role then as PR manager for adidas Germany – was part of it.

Basketball conquers the world

The timing could not have been better: the US Dream Team at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona excited a global audience for the sport of basketball. Germany followed suit by claiming a surprise victory at the 1993 European Championship. And, not to forget, adidas athlete Detlef Schrempf reached the peak of his career by being the first German to make headlines in the US for his winning performances in the NBA (including making it to the NBA finals with the Seattle Supersonics in 1996). So basketball was in the hearts and minds of sports fans and young consumers around the world.

An overwhelming response

Basketball on the streets of Bremen, Germany: In 1998 the venue of the adidas Streetball Challenge was the main station square.

Basketball on the streets of Bremen, Germany: In 1998 the venue of the adidas Streetball Challenge was the main station square.

Still, it was quite an adventure, as the American Ric Long, then in charge of our Business Unit Basketball recalled for the adidas History Book: “We wanted to get the kids who had an interest in basketball and give them a chance to join a team and play basketball for a weekend. We bought baskets, standards, hoops, ball, everything, and we put them up. It was crazy.” But this craziness paid off. 365 teams showed up for the first tournament in Berlin, and 18,000 spectators followed the mix of sport, music and action sports.

Streetball going global

Based on this success, the adidas Brand Management team really got behind Streetball. In the following years we added more and more countries to the Streetball mix, playing in Moscow on Red Square, in La Defense in Paris and in the centre of Hong Kong. In Germany we toured basically every major city and offered smaller-scale tournaments to our retail partners. Come the mid 1990s, I think basically every major media had in some shape or form written about adidas Streetball and, at one point, Streetball came in number four in the list of Top Ten Things to do. The German TV channel ZDF even reported live from the Streetball finals in Berlin.

Sustainable success

The adidas Streetball Challenges, including autograph sessions with NBA stars, drew huge crowds during the 90s.

The adidas Streetball Challenges, including autograph sessions with NBA stars, drew huge crowds during the 90s.

From a marketing point of view, adidas Streetball added event marketing to our marketing mix, alongside sport sponsorships and advertising. And it was a perfect tool to rejuvenate the brand, which in turn helped adidas to achieve a fantastic comeback in the 1990s. Still today, kudos go to Herbert Hainer, Erich Stamminger, Hermann Deininger and Charles Kratzer for really getting behind Streetball, and to the Berlin PR agency Schröder+Schömbs for getting the Streetball PR going. Today, adidas Streetball is still played in some markets around the world and in Berlin at the adidas supported Streetball School finals.

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  1. A great experience and lots of fun.
    So many stories to tell from that time…

  2. Can you or anybody that is reading this please e-mail any and all photo’s of addidas streetball that took place all throughout germany from the beginning in the 90′s until now please? I played on a team back then called The Le’Runners with Andy, John, Mike, & Drago coached by Poppa Jack Sussmann out of Naurod, Germany. I live in America now, but we played all of Germany for a long period of time all through the 90′s and we won a lot of Championships all over Germany. I would love to see some photo’s if anyone has any…

  3. I NEED KNOW HOW IS THE EXACT DAY ADIDAS STREETBALL IN MADRID IN 1995 NEAR TO ALUCHE VILLAGE . THAnKS A LOT OF .

  4. Hello I have own big location near the centre of Moscow and i want to do streetball challenge.
    We search the sponsors and other partners.
    Please contact with me!
    Super-sound@mail.ru