Project Manager, Consultant, & Database Administrator at adidas AG
For Erin Narloch, shedding light on the powerful stories woven into adidas’ history—stories about entrepreneurial spirit and greatness in sport—is central to her work at adidas AG. The adidas Archive contains hundreds of thousands of objects that, until recently, were hidden away, unavailable for public access. Providing access brings exciting results: when brand collaborator Pharrell Williams set out to breathe new life into the Superstar shoe, he used the Archive for inspiration.
Fed by information from TMS, the Archive’s external website gives the public an opportunity to learn about each object and its role in sport and culture, view online exhibitions, and build and share their own exhibitions of favorite objects. An internal intranet site, also populated by TMS, ensures adidas colleagues have constant access to Archive information.
Erin, who joined adidas in 2014, is responsible for database and IT project management, as well as overseeing the development of the strategic plan and content strategy for the new external website. She shared with us some of the successes and challenges of nurturing a global brand archive.
1. What is the biggest challenge your team faces on a daily basis?
Our biggest challenge is exceeding the expectations of our internal and external stakeholders. As a global brand archive, our collection of over 100,000 objects, including products, catalogues, documents, websites, and videos, is constantly growing. We are always striving to support the work of colleagues, who are located around the world, by connecting them with the collection in meaningful ways. Our external website and internal intranet sites help ensure our collection information is dynamic and relevant to stakeholders. Both are fed by TMS and communicate the value of the brand’s collection.
2. How do you see the use of technology in your organization evolving?
The Archive provides constant access to high-quality content. This highly digitized, accessible, and continuously growing collection serves to support the brand’s strategy, and can be utilized by the more than 50,000 adidas employees worldwide.
3. What is the one change that you’ve made at your organization that has had the biggest impact?
While it wasn’t during my tenure, I think the move to professionalize the Archive and the department was the biggest game changer. The brand is now better able to share the powerful stories that exist in adidas’ history.
4. Do you have a favorite book, event or training resource that has helped or motivated you in your career?
I take advantage of any opportunity to enrich my professional development: networking, AAM Conferences (more difficult now that I live in Germany!), and professional association membership (I am a previous board member of The American Alliance of Museum’s Education Professional Network, EdCom).
Additionally, I never underestimate the value of informal conversations with my colleagues. These can be very productive. We are currently in the process of relaunching our external-facing website, adidas-archive.org, which is fed by TMS. The relaunch process has inspired us to adopt a strategic plan and content strategy for the site. This includes an audit to evaluate a selection of content in TMS against our strategic benchmarks. This in-depth, intense process led me to research content strategy, content management, and web writing. These are the books on my desk with notes in the margins and Post-it flagged pages:
- Content Strategy for the Web, by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
- Letting go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works, Janice (Ginny) Redish
- Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, Ann Handley
- Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant
These books provide guidance and insight on how our content should be written to be accessible, usable, and engaging for our target audiences. The last one on the list (full disclosure—not yet done with) is one of those books that provide the much need insights, inspiration, and how-to—while crossing disciplines in a really refreshing way.
5. What is one of the most interesting projects or exhibitions organized by your organization and why?
In addition to the adidas Archive relaunch project and inter/intranet tools we produce, the way the Archive functions and the work of the department’s collections and communication managers is very interesting. The collections and communications staff work with hundreds of designers, adidas colleagues, and VIP Archive visitors each year. They communicate the collection’s relevance in dynamic and powerful ways. They contextualize the products into stories, are subject matter experts, and are stewards of the brand’s collective memory. They bring the collection to life!
6. If you were allowed to take home one item from your collection, what would it be and why?
Although we could never take an object home, we do get to wear products inspired by our collections. An example of this is the Superstar, which was first released as a tennis shoe in 1969, and later appeared on the basketball court to become one of the most worn NBA shoes of the 1970s. Run DMC later released the song, “My adidas” in the 1980s. The Superstar model has since been re-released and re-imagined by collaborators, with the most recent being Pharrell Williams in the Supercolor Collection. He even made visits to the Archive for inspiration. This demonstrates how the Archive is alive, how the work we do is relevant, and how more than ever, we need to provide our colleagues with access to our collections in meaningful, dynamic ways.