Adidas finds inspiration in the legacy of Terry Fox

The apparel brand is in the second phase of a major effort to support the runner's Foundation and its own brand mission.

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Adidas has set an ambitious fundraising goal to honour Canadian marathoner Terry Fox on the 40th anniversary of his Marathon of Hope.

A series of Terry Fox-branded Adidas products included refreshed Orion shoes, 26 pairs of which Adidas sent to Fox in 1980 in response to a letter asking for support – and are now sold out. The collection also includes several shirts with quotes attributed to Fox, such as “Dreams are made if people try” and “The answer is to try and help others.”

With a hundred percent of net proceeds from the Terry Fox-branded products sold going toward the Foundation, Adidas has set a fundraising goal of $1 million for this year, which it is about three-quarters of the way to achieving such a goal.

terryfoxquoteshirtRenzo Mendoza, senior manager of brand communications at Adidas, says this initiative was one of the brand’s biggest marketing priorities this year, originally planning a Canada-wide campaign for the 40th anniversary of the Marathon of Hope with events following the same path Fox embarked on in 1980. The collection of products was originally set to launch on April 12 – 40 years to the day Fox dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, N.L. and officially began his marathon. Due to the pandemic, the launch date was pushed back to May 20.

Without in-person events, the collection was promoted with the “#ThanksTerry” campaign, featuring Canadian athletes such as Darryl Sittler, Tessa Virtue and P.K. Subban sharing stories on social of how Terry Fox has personally inspired them. Sittler, for example, welcomed Fox to Nathan Phillips Square when the Marathon came through Toronto and gave Fox his 1980 NHL All Star team jersey.

To carry the momentum into the fall – when the annual Terry Fox Run typically happens in cities and towns across Canada – a second phase of the campaign was launched as is now underway and runs until the end of the year. It is profiling Canadians who, like Fox, have overcome their own obstacles but never lost their hope and show how his legacy lives on.

In the past 15 years, Adidas has donated more than $2.2 million dollars – raised from retail sales and employee fundraising – to The Terry Fox Foundation in support of cancer research. Company president, Michael Rossi, serves as a board member for the foundation. According to Mendoza, the brand is the Foundation’s largest corporate sponsor as well.

“What makes this a unique and important one for Adidas is Terry’s connection to the world of sport,” Mendoza says. “It’s very much a natural fit – not just because he wore our product, but because he is essentially the epitome of our brand mission.” The brand mission is Adidas’ belief that “through sport, we have the power to change lives.”

The products and the campaign are meant to put the focus on Fox, celebrating his legacy, his foundation and to rally Canadians across the country behind his story and what he has meant to the nation, Mendoza notes. “We never approached this as a traditional brand campaign [or] any kind of campaign that was about Adidas,” he says. “Obviously, there’s going to be some positive uplift in the relationship that we have with the Terry Fox Foundation and with Terry himself. [But] this really was about celebrating Terry and supporting the foundation.”

The Terry Fox Foundation, like most other charities and non-profits this year, likely welcomes the extra support in a year when most traditional fundraising activities have been disrupted. However, the Foundation held a virtual run this year on Sept. 20, a one-day event that took place around neighbourhoods, streets and backyards across the country. The annual Terry Fox run for schools was scheduled for Sept. 30, but the foundation is encouraging schools to select any date that works for them, as they may need more time to successfully plan and fundraise due to the pandemic.