When the "Brand" Goes Down...With an Injury

On February 25, 2012 Chicago Bulls all-star guard, Derrick Rose, signed a 14-year, $260 million dollar endorsement deal with Adidas. Just two months later the marketing executives at Adidas collectively felt a knot in their stomachs as they watched Rose fall to the ground and writhe in pain during a playoff game against Philadelphia. Their $260 million dollar man had just gone down with a serious, potentially career-ending knee injury. What do you do when your brand goes down? Everybody works harder.

The timing of Rose's injury could hardly have been worse. It wasn't just that Rose, and the Bulls, wouldn't have a long playoff run. Rose was set to play, and probably star, for Team USA in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Adidas was looking forward to introducing Derrick Rose to the world. They still would, but it was time to call an audible. The world would meet Derrick Rose, all right, but it would have to wait to meet the basketball player. Adidas would introduce Derrick Rose, the humble, dedicated, hard-working young man who rose from the gang-ridden streets of Englewood to NBA superstardom. That's the luxury of this brand. So many angles. So many directions. Adidas switched gears and focused their new Derrick Rose campaign on the comeback. The rehab. All of the hard work that Rose would do. The pain, the frustration, even the setbacks. The anticipation! Adidas knew Derrick Rose was more than a superbly talented basketball player. Adidas knew the Derrick Rose brand. Take away one part of it, we'll work with the rest until the basketball player comes back.

It wasn't just Adidas that had to work harder to keep the Derrick Rose brand fresh and visible. Derrick Rose himself had to work harder. No longer could he just let the game do the talking. Rose made a point of staying active and visible on social media, regularly Tweeting updates on his rehab, pictures of his progress, yet keeping his fans guessing on when he might return to the court. Rose also made a point of keeping his non-basketball life visible, signing on as a partner and spokesman for Giordano's, a local chain of Chicago-style pizzerias. Rose's first ad for Giordano's made it's debut in the first week of November, 2012, not coincidentally the opening week of the 2012 NBA Season. Derrick Rose the businessman.

This week Derrick Rose opened the 2013-2014 NBA season. He hadn't lost a step. To all appearances he looked stronger than ever. So did the brand.