You're making a digital push in production with something called the Speedfactory, as well. Could you explain what the Speedfactory is exactly?
We can produce certain products in a factory that is fully automated and requires very few people to be there. We launched the first one in Ansbach and have just opened the second one in Atlanta. One machine knits the shoe's upper. The second machine makes the Boost foam midsole [the new innovative cushioning material]. Then a third machine attaches the outsole and a fourth adds stability through bands applied to the side. If you have robots that can pass the shoe from one machine to the next, you can basically produce this shoe without any human labor involved. Although we still need someone to put the laces in!
Adidas has also created something called the Future Team. What's their mission statement?
The Future Team is everyone who works on innovation in the company – think material innovations, our Boost foam soles when they initially launched. It's a combination of engineers, designers, product experts and people who we have fully dedicated to making the future happen. They work two, three, sometimes five years out in terms of technologies, materials or approaches to design. They also have a higher degree of independence in the company, so they can really go far out – and bring ideas back to us. We think of them as our beacons, our pilots, showing us the way to the future.
Looking to the near future – and the 2018 World Cup: How big of a marketing opportunity does the tournament represent to Adidas every four years?
It's very significant. We've produced the official ball since 1970 and we're very proud of that relationship. It ties us to the world's biggest participation sport. The World Cup is a sensational brand activation platform: You can show off your latest innovations, your latest designs to the world, on the field of play, on athletes who are very aspirational for people around the world – be it Lionel Messi or others. We can't wait for the World Cup to start.
Given Adidas' success in the past few years, what ambitions do you still have for the company?
We want to be the best sports company in the world. That's our ambition, what binds us together. We all believe that sport has this power to change lives. It's not about being the biggest or even the most profitable. It's about being the best. That's what inspires us, and I would love to contribute to that. That's why I've just signed up to the company for five years – a big decision at my age.
So it's not just about selling sneakers, it's about changing lives?
We see the positive impact of sport on not just our lives, but all lives. Look at the obesity problem in the world, at other cultural and environmental challenges. I was at a big sales meeting in Miami last week where we had an hour-long presentation from Parley for the Oceans. They clean up plastics from the sea, which we then turn into a knitted upper – from a threat into a thread. If we can help make the world a better place, that's the best future for our company.