Julia Schatz, Senior Account Executive

Tonight is a very big night for Chicago sports fans. For anyone who has read any of my previous blogs, you know I myself am one of these fans and I, like many others, hold a very special place in my heart for Derrick Rose. Tonight marks the 2013 Chicago Bulls season opener and the hugely anticipated return on Derrick Rose after a heartbreaking knee injury over 18 months ago.

Derrick Rose is constantly doing the unthinkable and making it look easy.  Maintaining, possibly even improving, his brand during an 18-month period where he didn’t even play, is just another accomplishment to add to his already impressive resume. This however, was done with a little help from Adidas.

In February 2012, Rose renewed his endorsement contract with Adidas for an unprecedented $250 million, 14-year contract. Just two months later, Rose suffered a season-ending knee injury, tearing his ACL in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs against the 76ers.

Reacting to the outpour of support for Rose on social media, Adidas created the digital-first campaign #thereturn. The Adidas Basketball YouTube Channel created a documentary-style web series “The Return of Derrick Rose” that follows Rose through his rehabilitation and depicts the struggles and triumphs of his recovery.

(If you haven’t seen any of these videos, I highly recommend you do! One of my favorites is the All In For Chicago.)

Adidas took a worst-case-scenario injury and with #thereturn kept Rose top of mind with fans throughout his absence from the court. Through these videos, Adidas allowed fans to feel like they were part of his recovery process. Creating this kind of transparency reassured fans that Rose was truly doing everything possible to get better, which helped public acceptance of his long absence.

#thereturn also translated smoothly to Twitter. The verified Adidas Basketball Twitter account @adidasHoops has premiered #thereturn commercials and interacts with @drose, the official account of the MVP. The account also promotes his line of shoes, builds anticipation and excitement for Rose’s return to the game and interacts with fans regularly.

The official website of #thereturn reads, “There’s something inside me that won’t give up. A rallying cry inspired by those who believe in me. I’ll never stop pushing until we’re back. For my City, our team and the game we love. I’m all in.”

How can you not support this guy? He is a PR & Marketing dream both on and off the court.

Through “The Return of Derrick Rose” web series and  #thereturn campaign, Adidas pretty much wrote the playbook of how to turn lemons into lemonade when you have an injured athlete.  Adidas has done as much as they can and now it is up to Derrick to show us that he is back and was worth waiting for.

Ironically, tonight’s highly anticipated Bulls season opener is against the Miami Heat and Lebron James. If  #thereturn is an example of what you should do in a crisis, #thedecision is its counterpart for what not to do. James’ story is similar to Rose’s, becoming the hometown hero and young MVP. That is, until he left Cleveland to go to the Miami Heat, vilifying his brand. After tremendous backlash for leaving his hometown and announcing it on a nationally televised segment called “The Decision,” Nike responded with a commercial featuring James titled “What Should I Do?” James was clearly trying to evoke some form of understanding or sympathy but the public responded with mockery. Even Michael Jordan put out a reaction to this video.  This video should serve as an example of how PR and marketing efforts can do more harm than good if you don’t have the right strategy.