CollaBrands: Adidas Goes Green in Sustainability Partnerships With Disney and Depop

As highlighted in previous CollaBrands columns, Gen Z and millennials seek out brands that represent their beliefs, and one of the core values for both demographics is the need for sustainability. Thus, brands that do good, do better.

For more than half a century, the iconic adidas Stan Smith sneaker has remained fundamentally untouched. Yet the German sportswear giant has now decided that it is time for a change, driven by the company’s goal to use only recycled polyester by 2024 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The next generation of Stan Smiths is being created with white Primegreen uppers, recycled rubber outsoles and other salvaged high-performance materials. A women’s version of the shoe will feature planet Earth-inspired graphics, gold eyelets and green heel tabs. And pair will arrive in a classic blue adidas Originals box, updated to be made up of more than 90 percent recycled paper.

To generate attention for this major shift towards sustainability, adidas has engaged in a number of high-profile collaborations that can both delight existing fans and attract a new generation to the classic Stan Smith sneaker. 

Adidas x Disney Color Classic White Kicks in Green

Kermit the Frog is among the Disney characters featured in adidas’s “green” collaboration. Photo: Courtesy of adidas

Adidas teamed up with Disney on a collection that features seven popular Disney characters with “green” connections:  Kermit the Frog, Yoda, the Hulk, Tinkerbell, Wall-E, Guardian of the Galaxy Groot, Rex from Toy Story, and Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. Most of these figures are literally green in color, while Wall-E is all about recycling and Groot is a sentient alien tree.  

Adidas x Depop’s Sustainability for Gen Z

Adidas and Depop invited users to customize the new Stan Smiths for resale. Photo: Courtesy of Depop

To help adidas communicate the sustainability credentials of the freshly redesigned Stan Smith and make the iconic shoe more desirable to younger consumers, the company’s marketing agency brokered a partnership with popular shopping platform Depop. With a focus on repurposing, reimagining and redefining style, the collaborative campaign aims to engage Gen Z.

The London-based Depop has taken off as a peer-to-peer social shopping app offers a mobile marketplace that enables individuals to buy and sell items. The app has a strong community orientation, and its layout is similar to Instagram’s, giving it a strong social media feel. The app also allows users to see what their friends are buying and selling, thereby helping to drive engagement and influence purchases. 

Depop is especially popular with millennial and Gen Z users because it provides a way for them to interact while recycling unwanted items for money, with 54 percent between the ages of 14 and 24. Its popularity is also attributed to its push to support sustainable fashion sources, and it has even drawn celebrities to open stores, with some donating the proceeds from their sales to charitable causes, furthering the virtuous cycle.

For the adidas collaboration, 40 Depop sellers were invited to customize pairs of the new Stan Smith Primgreen shoes and choose a charity to receive the proceeds. Three others Depop creatives worked with upcycling designer Paolina Russo, track athlete Laviai Nielsen and British alternative R&B band Easy Life rework items of adidas apparel, resulting in an exclusive collection of one-of-a-kind pieces intended to complement the Stan Smith shoes. 

Steven Ekstract is Managing Director of Global Licensing Advisors, a consultancy that provides companies with insight and strategic direction to succeed in the $300 billion a year licensing business. Ekstract is the founder and former Publisher of License Global magazine, the leading information source for the consumer licensing business. He can be reached at


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