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Adidas Markets ‘The Return,’ but Debuts D Rose Sneaker

Source: Adidas

On the afternoon of April 28, a collective groan could be heard coming from the city of Chicago. With one minute and 22 seconds left in game one of the NBA Eastern Conference quarter-finals, Derrick Rose, the city’s home-grown star and 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player, was helped off the court with an apparent knee injury.

Gone in flash were any NBA championship dreams for the team with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Tests would later confirm Rose had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

For Adidas, gone was the highest profile player in its basketball universe. After surgery in May, it was estimated Rose would not return to the court for another eight to twelve months.

It was a serious blow to the company. Only months earlier, Rose was signed to an extended deal worth a reported $185 million over 13 years.

“I remember the moment when he got injured," says Lawrence Norman, Adidas vice president, Global Basketball. "We all know where we were when it happened. Immediately, we started talking about what we could do to inspire him on the road back to playing.”

The result is “The Return,” a multi-episode video documentary series that will give fans an inside look at the superstar’s recovery. Two videos released to date follow Rose though his rehabilitation workouts at Athletes' Performance in Los Angeles.

The campaign is designed to keep Rose connected with his fans during his time away from the court and offer inspiration with a Rose-narrated peek at the effort he is undertaking to get back on the court.

Derrick Rose
Source: Addidas
Derrick Rose

“We don't remember any other brand doing something like this and giving this much insight into a person, into their recovery, into the trials and tribulations of the road to recovery,” says Norman. “But he was open to it and it shows a side of Derrick that people just don't see.”

Of course, you don’t pay an athlete $185 million for inspiration. Adidas needs to keep Rose top of mind to sell shoes — and hat — and shorts — and lots of them in order to compete with rivals such as Nikeand Under Armour , among others.

But even as Rose works his way back, the company Thursday unveiled the Adidas D Rose 3.0 signature basketball shoe. The shoe will be sold at adidas.com and sporting goods retailers nationwide starting on Oct. 4 and will cost about $160. The shoe will initially be sold in Chicago Bulls “away” (black/white/red) and “home” (grey/black/red) colors. Seven additional color-schemes will roll out through the end of the year.

The shoe is the first to feature the new D Rose logo, which uses three petals to form a rose. The three petals represent Rose’s three brothers, Reggie, Allan and Dwayne. In the middle of the rose is the number one, which represents Rose’s mom Brenda and is also his jersey number.

But for Adidas, this launch is about more than just the shoe. It’s the first time the company is branching out beyond a Rose signature shoe and adding an accompanying clothing line. The collection includes jackets, hoodies, tees, shorts, pants, hats and socks to go with each shade of the shoe. Items in the the D Rose signature collection will range in price from $15 to $80.

“The consumer is shopping differently than they have before, so it’s a head-to-toe collection,” Norman says. “(The consumer) wants to hook up a hat to sock, to a tee shirt, to shorts, to a fleece to sneakers.”

Still, it will be months before fans get to see Rose on the court in his new shoe. Current estimates have Rose out through the All-Star break and target a March return.

But while Rose’s injury is a setback, Adidas officials say they are confident he will return to the game as good, if not better than he was before. So while "The Return" campaign keeps fans plugged in and documents Rose’s rehabilitation progress, Adidas hopes that what follows after Rose’s actual return is that his career will rise to a whole new level.

“(His) story has been amazing. Hometown kid, rookie of the year, All-Star second year, MVP third year, and then the injury came,” says Norman. “Just like any great movie has its ups and downs, ( I told Derrick) just imagine how cool the story would be if you have all of this success individually, come back from the injury and eventually take your city, your team to a championship. How amazing of a story is that going to be?"

-By Tom Rotunno, CNBC Senior Editor

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.

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