Impossible is Nothing.
It sure isn’t, Adidas.
That’s all it ever takes – being all in. And Adidas taught us that.
You recognized these phrases the moment you read them, didn’t you? Why have these lines stuck with you, do you think?
Because they are slogans and they were created for that very purpose.
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Before we go any further,
What Is a Slogan?
A slogan or tagline defines who a brand is – it defines their essence, their voice, their vision, and their values among other things.
You might say that a brand already has these components to describe it; why need a slogan?
In this way, you would remember the brand every time you saw or heard those words.
And Adidas does not disappoint in that regard.
Whether it is the Adidas slogan ‘Impossible is nothing’ or ‘Adidas is all in,’ they get their message across – they are determined to help athletes achieve all their goals, even the ones that seem impossible to start with.
We’re going to tell you all about the slogans and their impact on Adidas’ branding in this blog post.
But before that:
Let’s learn a little bit about the brand’s story, as well as their motivation and mission.
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The Adidas Story
The brand, like many others, had humble beginnings.
Starting work on his goal to provide athletes with the best possible equipment in his mother’s wash kitchen in 1924, the founder, Adi Dassler, was a force to reckon with. The company was then called ‘Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik’ or Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory as it was started by Dassler and his brother.
In 1949, they set off on their separate ways and Adidas was registered as Adi Dassler Adidas Sportschuhfabrik, which later became Adidas.
Today, the brand needs no introduction. It is a household name – ask anyone and they will tell you they either own Adidas gear or want to own Adidas gear. You know you do too!
But that didn’t just happen by mistake. While their quality and the fulfillment of the promise to provide the very best of sports gear is the primary reason for their popularity, you know there’s got to be more.
And you’re right!
The way the company has branded itself and advertised its products to the public has a massive role to play in its popularity. Among their branding successes is the creation of the Adidas tagline ‘Impossible Is Nothing.”
Adidas’ Game-Changing Slogan – Impossible is Nothing
This is, no doubt, a very powerful message.
The fact that nothing is impossible is perhaps the most motivational message you can give a sportsman.
It is probably the best motivational message you can give ANYONE.
Because it encourages the individual to go out and chase their dreams, no matter how unattainable they seem at first.
But where did it come from?
The brand came up with the ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ slogan in 1974.
I know what you must have been thinking from the beginning of this blog post – the line sounds familiar but you just can’t place it.
But that’s why you’re here.
See, the slogan was derived from a quote by Muhammad Ali, world-famous boxing champion. The saying goes something like this:
What the ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ Slogan Implies
The inversion technique that takes the more common phrase, ‘Nothing Is Impossible,’ and turns it into ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ is quite remarkable.
One meaning of the phrase is that which we have been discussing up until now – nothing is impossible. It pushes people to break all sorts of boundaries and just go for it – to reach out and grab the achievements that seem out of reach.
But it can also mean something else.
Impossible is nothing.
The positioning of the words can mean that the concept of impossible itself means nothing. There is no such thing.
So what is holding you back may just be your own invisible shackles because after all, ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist.
Whichever way you look at it, the effectiveness and impact of the words is profound.
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Adidas and Muhammad Ali – An Inspiring Partnership
Let’s come back to origin of the slogan for a minute.
The fact that the Adidas catchphrase was derived from the saying of a sportsman is quite significant – it reflects the view Adidas itself has toward sportsmanship.
But the thing is, it wasn’t just any sportsman – it was Muhammad Ali. It was a man whose moves inside the ring and philosophies for life outside the ring were both equally outstanding.
So the message had all the more meaning.
But that’s not all!
Muhammad Ali endorsed the brand, which was one of the most important milestones for Adidas.
After all, if the top boxer in the world, a highly inspirational figure in all aspects of his life, was endorsing a sportswear brand, it HAD to be good, right?
But Adidas didn’t leave it at that. They used a very smart brand endorsement and positioning approach when they created their ‘Impossible is Nothing’ campaign featuring Muhammad Ali, his daughter Laila Ali, and others.
The Significance of the ‘Impossible is Nothing’ Adidas Marketing Campaign
This Adidas marketing campaign was launched in 2004 and left a mark on not just a young, sporty target audience but a wider demographic.
It inspired; encouraged; uplifted.
In the brand’s own words, it reflected “the attitude Adidas shares with athletes around the world – the desire to push yourself further, to surpass limits, to break new ground.”
Let’s look at two examples of how it did that.
Impossible Is Nothing
This ad was monumental is Adidas marketing strategy. It was monumental in the history of all advertisements ever.
It shows Laila Ali, Muhammad Ali’s daughter, taking him on in the boxing ring. A three-time female boxing champion taking on the legend himself.
The ad voiceover is as inspirational as it gets. Laila Ali tells us how her father, by looking impossible in the eye and defeating it again and again, has taught her to do the same. To never give up, no matter how big the challenge. And to bring it home.
And she proceeds to do just that. She wins the round and owns the ring.
This ad is the definition of persistence, determination, passion, and the drive to win.
And that is what Adidas wants to help all athletes do.
The Long Run
This ad features Muhammad Ali leading Laila Ali, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Tracy McGrady, Ian Thorpe, Haile Gebrselassie, and Maurice Green on a run.
It speaks of individuals who listen to themselves and not to others. Who break barriers, not remain confined in them. Who encourage others to reach their full potential.
It speaks of individuals who don’t believe in words such as ‘can’t’ or ‘impossible’ and who go to all lengths to achieve their dreams.
And by ending the ad with the text ‘Impossible is Nothing,’ Adidas connects all the dots and gives a strong, empowering message to the world.
The ad is sheer brilliance. Adidas reflected its entire ideology by speaking about the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali. The determination to never give up. The will to keep on going despite criticism. The power to win.
That’s what Muhammad Ali embodied. And that, again, is what Adidas wants to help all athletes achieve – perfectly illustrated through the ad.
David Beckham’s Story
This is one version of an ad that was made as part of the campaign.
In it, football star David Beckham recounts his story of loss and defeat and how he overcame it.
He tells the listener how he came out of the darkest time of his life with the determination to be good again – to make his country and fans proud.
And how it felt when he was finally able to do that.
While telling the story, he translates his thoughts onto a large canvas. He gives the message of the importance of belief, strength, and family, as well as the role they played in his success.
These aren’t the only ads that were produced as part of this Adidas marketing campaign. There were many more featuring over 20 athletes with the same message of persistence, courage, and the will to win.
But these three certainly are the most talked about videos, not just in the context of Adidas, but in general because of their empowering message!
The Evolution of the Adidas Campaign Slogan
In 2011, Adidas launched its ‘All In’ campaign slogan. While the Adidas ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ tagline will likely always remind people of the brand, it decided to explore new horizons with the new campaign.
This was the biggest marketing campaign in the brand’s history.
Take a look at this ad:
It features football superstars Lionel Messi and David Beckham, NBA champion Derrick Rose, and world-famous popstar Katy Perry among others.
Overall, the gist of the ad and the message it gives is that all these people, these individuals who are heroes in their fields are ‘all in.’ They are giving it their all to succeed.
This does two things:
One – It encourages us, the viewers, to do the same.
Two – It delivers the message that Adidas is all in when it comes to giving sportsmen and women the best of the best. And that it will go to any lengths to do that.
And that is just the impact Adidas wanted.
Adidas has launched various campaigns from there onwards. ‘Unite All Originals,’ ‘Your Future Is Not Mine,’ and ‘Unleash Your Creativity’ all continued the legacy of the brand propagating positive, impactful messages.
What the Adidas Slogans Teach Us about Branding
What have you learned about slogans in general from this discussion about Adidas’ branding genius?
A slogan is the shortest, most effective way of conveying what your brand is all about, as well as what your products and services can help the consumer achieve. It helps you share the spirit of your message and the reason for your existence in a mere few words.
We will discuss a few characteristics of the Adidas slogan and put them in the context of creating a slogan that stands out.
3 S’s – Short, Sweet, and Simple
Part of the Adidas marketing strategy is to create slogans that take simplicity to a whole new level.
Think about it:
Impossible is Nothing.
Does it really get much simpler than this?
Overcomplicated slogans or those with extremely difficult words, no matter how sophisticated they may seem, don’t work. They just don’t click with the reader immediately and aren’t easy to remember (more on that later).
Super long slogans don’t work either – an entire long-winded sentence is neither catchy, nor attention-worthy as a tagline or slogan.
The best format for a slogan is short, simple, and creative.
Don’t believe us? Here are some examples of slogans of other major brands that are famous for their brilliance and popularity:
- Just Do it – Nike
- Got Milk? – A national campaign run by MilkPEP
- A Diamond is Forever – De Beers
- I’m Lovin’ It – McDonald’s
- Open Happiness – Coca-Cola
You know why these and hundreds of other crafty slogans work? That’s right – they’re short, sweet, and simple.
- Unique and Original
Adidas could very easily have chosen the slogan, “Nothing is Impossible.”
It would still have been short, easy to remember, and motivational.
But the inversion technique worked wonders in this case.
- The slogan suddenly became unique – everyone would have heard “nothing is impossible” at some point in their lives but they wouldn’t have heard it said the other way around.
- It was creative – playing around with the order of the words, when possible, results in phrases that stand out.
- The phrase covered a larger meaning that we discussed in detail above – that impossible doesn’t even exist.
The most important point here is that the phrase itself was an original – it was the opposite of what people would generally use.
It was something new – and that in itself increased its value manifold.
Reflective of Brand Values and Message
Consistency with the brand’s overall values is essential when it comes to a slogan.
After all, when a consumer thinks of the slogan, they are reminded of the brand. What they feel when they think about the brand should be in line with what the brand stands for.
Adidas has a strong core belief: that it is possible to change lives through sport. They truly believe in the power of sport to introduce positive change.
And that is what their slogans represent too.
Impossible is Nothing – Changing your lifestyle, your circumstances, your perspective; none of that is impossible. You can do it all through sport and otherwise.
All In – When you give something your all and truly believe in yourself, you have the power to change your life. Heck, you have the power to change the world.
These are the positive messages that run through your mind the moment you see the Adidas slogans.
And that is exactly what you need to achieve with your slogan. It should reflect the ethical framework, values, and goals of your organization and give those same messages to the audience.
Catchy and Worthy of Remembering
We have discussed in detail how the Adidas slogan has been drafted in a way that facilitates retention in the memories of the audience.
So what are some characteristics that a memorable slogan has? We have discussed some of these already, while some are new:
- Short and Sweet – Nobody’s going to remember a paragraph
- Relevant to the Target Market – Only if your audience can relate to the slogan will it have an impact on them
- All-Encompassing – The slogan on its own should be enough to convey the intended message – one should understand AND remember it without the presence of any other elements.
- Unique – People shouldn’t have heard anything like it before
These qualities will make your slogan such that it catches the attention of people and makes sure they remember it.
Honest and Realistic
Adidas is a household name.
They have the ability to come up with the most outrageously boastful slogan and still be able to make it work.
Why? Because they have the goods to back it up.
A company that started from scratch and became a household name in a mere few decades can very well claim that Impossible is Nothing. Because they proved it!
Which means that their slogan is completely honest and realistic.
That is something you need to keep in mind when drafting your slogans too, whether they are company slogans or advertising campaign slogans.
If you sell imitation jewelry, your slogan cannot say “Happiness is Original.” If you sell a cola drink, your slogan can’t be something along the lines of “A healthy treat for your kids.”
Do you see where we are going with this? Today’s consumer is smart – you can’t mislead them with slogans that are dishonest.
Make sure you can back up the slogan with actions and words.
The slogan you come up with should be relevant 10, 15, 50 years down the line.
We know, we know, this is hard to achieve in today’s world when things change with the blink of an eye.
But it’s still possible.
Because you’re worth it.
Imagination at work.
Impossible is nothing.
All these slogans worked yesterday, they work today, and they will work tomorrow.
Why? Because they stand the test of time. The messages they give will ALWAYS be relevant, no matter the time and age.
Your slogan should be the same. Create it with potential changes and developments in mind.
Instantly Reminds the User of the Company
We established this right at the beginning of this blog post – Adidas has managed to create slogans that stay with the audience for years and years to come.
They are easy to remember and become ingrained in the minds of the audience.
But that’s not all – they instantly associate the phrase with the company.
And this is a result of all the points we just mentioned: short, catchy, and aligned with the company’s values among other things.
Adidas brand and campaign slogans have a lasting effect – they enhance brand recognition and make people associate positive vibes with the brand and its products. This, as we mentioned above, is a very important reason for the brand’s success.
The taglines and campaigns encourage people to push boundaries and become the best version of themselves. They tell you to go out and conquer the world.
In addition, Adidas displays a very smart use of celebrity endorsements in its advertising campaigns by giving the audience real-life examples of people who have actually smashed records in their respective fields. This is true for the Impossible is Nothing and All in campaigns among others.
Be it Muhammad Ali or David Beckham, Katy Perry or Derrick Rose – successful individuals becoming a part of the Adidas marketing efforts and endorsing their products is a reflection of the brand’s mission. And that is to believe in yourself and give it your all to come out on top.
Believe us, it worked wonders for the brand.
Thus, if you are launching a business or devising an advertising campaign, that is exactly what you should think of when coming up with a slogan.
Does it reflect your philosophy?
Is it giving real-life examples of the message you encourage and endorse?
To what extent does it match your ideology?
Does it work from a language perspective?
Take a leaf out of Adidas’ book and come up with a killer slogan like – because it might just make the impossible, possible for your brand!
Which other slogans would you like us to discuss and analyze? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll consider reviewing them next!