Erica Wheeler could utter the same two words: “That’s me!”
The Sparks guard was nearly rendered speechless in April as she got a first look of herself on a larger-than-life Adidas billboard that spans the side of a building in Los Angeles. Anyone driving along the adjacent interstate highway can see Wheeler’s photo accompanied by the phrase “Impossible is Nothing,” the name of Adidas’s latest campaign and all the same a representation of Wheeler’s unique journey to the WNBA.
“There’s a lot we dream of as basketball players,” Wheeler told Sports Illustrated. “A billboard for me, that would be like a joke in passing. To see me on a billboard as big as that, it’s definitely breathtaking. I thank Adidas for that experience.”
The billboard is one example of the on- and off-court support Adidas has put behind Wheeler and its family of 23 WNBA athletes and figures. The brand currently represents a dynamic roster of talent, spanning from Wheeler, the first WNBA player to go undrafted and be named All-Star MVP, to two-time MVP and Sparks-turned-Sky star Candace Parker and Layshia Clarendon, the first WNBA player to openly identify as transgender and nonbinary.
Adidas has doubled its investment in the brand’s WNBA roster of athlete-partners over the past year and a half with an eye on highlighting the players. That all starts with listening to what the athletes are passionate about and how Adidas can support them in their communities.
“We want to equally support all players and the change they want to see in the world, while embracing them off the court,” Adidas global basketball GM Eric Wise told SI.
In Wheeler’s case, that support was realized in part through Adidas’s “Impossible is Nothing” campaign, which features a docu-style series of more than 20 films that encompasses the brand’s full range of partners, including Beyoncé and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba.
The WNBA’s film, narrated by screenwriter, producer and actress Lena Waithe, features Parker, Clarendon, Liz Cambage, Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, Angel McCoughtry and Moriah Jefferson. The video has been promoted both digitally and on television and focuses on how the players see what can be accomplished when they use their voices to demand justice and equality for all people.
The Adidas series is an example of what attracted Wheeler to join the brand. The six-year WNBA guard joined Adidas in August 2020 due to its “family” atmosphere, taking note of how the brand was putting its athletes, particularly women, at the forefront—something not often found.
Adidas has highlighted players such as Wheeler, Parker, Cambage and Ogwumike in its campaigns and on social media, making it no secret the intentions of the company going forward: to work with its WNBA athlete-partners to make an impact in communities and beyond.
“The power of what we can do and achieve together is limitless, and that is truly what we believe in,” Wise said. “Our core belief from an Adidas standpoint is that sports can change lives. … Working with our partners, how can we make an impact?”
With the initiative, Wheeler is not surprised by how Adidas’s WNBA roster has blossomed. She recognizes just how expansive the experiences and backgrounds of her fellow athlete-brand-partners are, from former MVPs to undrafted players like herself, and how the meaning of the brand’s “Impossible is Nothing” campaign can impact others of all ages.
“We are examples; we are in the field of doing what these kids want to do, living the dream,” Wheeler said. “Telling them they can do whatever they want, whether that is basketball or not. … Chase your dreams. It won’t be easy, because if it was then everyone would be doing it.”
As for Adidas’s future projects with its WNBA roster, plans are still in the works. The brand has been strategizing long-term to listen to consumers and understand how to best celebrate its dynamic and talented WNBA family.
Adidas is one of many brands that has been shifting focus to the WNBA and female athletes. Recently, Puma made headlines in the women’s basketball world with the announcement that reigning WNBA champion and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart will receive a signature sneaker, the first in the WNBA since Parker’s signature TS Ace Commander in 2010. Under Armour has also added more WNBA partners and released the HOVR Breakthru, its first performance basketball sneaker developed specifically for the female athlete and designed by women. In the apparel space, Nike made an impact this season by revealing new 25th-anniversary WNBA jerseys for each team.
Whether Adidas follows in the footsteps of other brands with the signature sneaker route or carves its own lane in women’s basketball is still up in the air. From potential new footwear to a women’s basketball apparel line and beyond, everything is on the table for the brand in this new chapter.
“We’re definitely listening to our consumers and what they need, whether it’s apparel or footwear for the female athlete, we’re excited for that opportunity,” Wise said. “The consumer is asking and we have the platform, and more importantly the group of partners, to do something special. We want to exhaust and land on something great for all parties.”
For now, Wheeler is thrilled to be part of the Adidas family. Having the brand support her never-give-up mentality and put her face and message on one of the biggest billboards in Los Angeles is just the start.
As Wheeler says, “The message is out, anything is possible, impossible is nothing.”
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