Jean-Baptiste Saulais has worked for the Adidas marketing team as a product manager & activation assistant on for a key European account, Decathlon. We hear from Jean-Baptiste, to understand what a product manager does, insight into his role and advice to those looking for a career in the sporting goods sector.
Product Managers within Adidas are working on a specific project that they have been assigned to. If I take the example of the Decathlon account, in the adidas Decathlon ecosystem, there are three Product Managers in charge of different categories - team sports (such as football, rugby etc.), fitness and individual sports (tennis, swimming etc.).
The Product Manager is a marketing expert, able to set up campaign and activations to showcase a collection or a particular product. In sport, these activations are often linked to what it is currently happening and engaging in the market (such as EURO2020 recently). The Product Manager follows products within their category for the duration of their lifecycle (from the Launch through integration for a future collection to the end of the season).
We work in collaboration with the Key Account Manager who is our ‘partner’ from a sales perspective. Each season, they will build the offer of their categories taking into consideration global plans, messaging as well as brand strategy and ambition while taking into account the retailers requirements and wishes. They organise different times (sell-in sessions) with the customer (retailer) to present and finally sell their collection and products which will form the brands offer for the particular season.
In parallel, the Product Manager builds the activation plan to present how the customer will have the possibility to sell the products in store and via digital channels (sell-out). From physical in store activations to contest for attention via e-commerce, possibilities to showcase the brand via events and collections for a particular product are plentiful. The difficulty here is to have the creative idea that will interest and even excite consumers. Aside from specific products, another important goal for brand activations is to elevate the brand image. Again, in the Sport industry, activations are regularly associated to sporting events which represent powerful opportunity for a brand to showcase itself and be aspirational to consumers. From EURO2020, the Tokyo Olympic Games to Roland Garros and The Tour de France these events have huge impact on brand activation success.
A Product Manager needs to be accomplished at working in a team and building diverse relationships.
The objectives of the Product Manager are quite varied, but to succeed in this job, you need to have some specific skills. A Product Manager needs to be accomplished at working in a team and building diverse relationships. As mentioned before he/she works very closely to the Key Account Manager. They collaborate a lot to align the marketing plan with the commercial plan. You will also work with the Product Manager for marketing activations and collaborate the customer account teams and sometimes with agencies, so it is important to be able to work with a range of people with different areas of the business.
Another important attribute for success is to be very well-organized. He/she must work on lots of subjects crossing different season which need careful planning. If we place ourselves at the product level, the Product Manager will have to manage marketing activations for last season (for example Spring-Summer 21) while also working on adjustments and deliveries of products for Fall-Winter 21-22, and on top of this manage product orders for Spring-Summer 22 and presentations for the different collections and brand directions for Fall-Winter22/23. It’s a lot and you need to really enjoy being organized and delivering against detailed plans.
Product Managers will have the opportunity to effectively progress in their career. In this way, if you have the ambition to change categories while remaining a Product Manager, this is very possible, and will enable you to broaden your knowledge and practical experience. You can also go on the other side (to the commercial side) and work with key account management. Another possibility, depending on your background and ambitions is to become a marketing director.
Fundamentally it is a very exciting and rewarding career. If you have the skills, ambition and dedication, product management gives you the opportunity to work with the biggest brands in sport at the very forefront of consumer trends.
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