Creative Soccer Culture

adidas adizero 99g Q&A

After smashing all preconceptions of lightweight design, we speak to adidas Football Product Developer, Hazim Kulak about the groundbreaking adizero 99g, working with NASA and the ingredients that go into making the world's lightest ever football boot.

Can you begin by telling us about your role in the adizero 99g project?

Sure, I lead the adidas product development team and for the last few years have been supporting the idea of how we can create the lightest football boot ever. I'm the middle man in terms of coordinating with external companies when it comes to lightweight materials and making sure that from a visual as well as performance point of view, we are on the right track to fulfilling all of the players demands.

One example I 
can give you was the cooperation we had with NASA. We were heavily trying to understand what materials out there are really the lightest on earth, so we got the message from NASA that they are using special lightweight materials that are textiles based on mesh. We said; 'Hey man, why not use these materials and expertise in a different market place. We are the market leading company in football and we should co-operate with these guys to make sure we have the right ingredients for this concept. So based on that co-operation we were inspired by some very exclusive, premium and lightweight materials that we then took into consideration for the boot.

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When did you first start creating the adizero 99g boot?
We started in 2013, presenting the boot at the Innovation Lab in London. The fundamentals were already there and have existed in our adizero franchise since 2010. We just tried to evaluate or lift it up to the next level in terms of making the lightest boot ever. So 2010 was our starting point with the original adizero sprintframe chassis and the super lightweight material, but very specifically we kicked off the whole project in 2013 when we said; 'we want to be the industry leading company when it comes to innovative product'. Since then it's been a very interesting and long journey to make it happen and keeping our promise from 2013 where we told our consumers that, one day, 'you will be part of this experience' and be able to buy the lightest boot ever.

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How different is the final version to the one we saw back in 2013?
Visually it's not that far away, but just from a construction and materials point of view, there are a lot of changes that we had to make. We had a lot of material discussions - you know that we have very high standards when it comes to quality and performance needs - so that's why it was a long journey in terms of finding the right material and finding the right construction that really supports the lightest boot ever. That's why visually I can say it's not that far away. The project was to create a look-see effect, semi-transparent design to really emphasise the lightweight construction and the lightweight design, but at the same time we had probably around 50 different materials and around 50 different prototypes during that journey.

Can you talk us through the materials that are used on the upper?
So on the upper the final material is basically a super lightweight textile mesh layer. It is coated with a special super thin film that really guarantees you ultimate durability. To ensure we have enough protection we also added one more layer, which we call the skeleton layer and that really is all over the upper to make sure that we guarantee enough material stability and enough protection. If you look at the forefoot areas, we also added another layer based on a synthetic, to give players enough comfort when they control and kick the ball.

How do you choose which materials and features to sacrifice in order to keep the weight to a minimum?
We have a lot of different discussions and different attack plans, but the starting point is always; what we have on the table right now and how much can we lift it up? So as I said, our lightweight franchise – one of our biggest silos is the adizero – is all about speed, agility, and lightweight. We know that the adizero sprintframe is a benchmark so we said, 'lets take the adizero sprintframe and try to understand how much we can explore with this and how much lighter we can we make it. Do we reengineer it? What about the different stud configuration? Can we reduce the studs? Can we find a different construction in terms of the different components you have in and out? We looked at the current ingredients we have on the table and tried to expand them in a way to lift them up and at the same time making sure that we do not sacrifice anything. It's about the best product with the best quality you can create.

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Did you receive any player feedback and what internal testing did you carry out on the boot?
For us, the players are key so we stay in constant touch. Every prototype we have created is always tested and fed back with our key assets, pro players and semi-professional players. We have a huge pool of players and due to the fact that we have a limit (one size available only) with the 99g, we needed to focus on certain player types and profiles. Those conversations we had with our key players helped us to understand whether the way we created the prototype worked or if they saw any pain-­points, pressure­-points or stability issues whatsoever.
We had guys like Benzema, David Alaba and Lavezzi who told us how lightweight is important for them. We know that any competitive advantage we can give a player is beneficial and a good thing, so the quicker they can run and the faster they can control the ball, the higher their chances of winning the game and scoring a goal. This product works and no other brand can really tell the story of having a boot below 100 grams that works, literally.

Was it always a key target to break that 100g mark?
For us it's an ongoing development. Just because we've hit that 99g, we don't want to stop here. It's definitely about looking forward and finding clever construction ways and new materials that really enable us to push the boundaries and set the bar even higher. We have a lot of nice ingredients right now, so we used a lot of things in this product that will also be seen in other upcoming concepts. Looking at some facts right now, the f50 is 165 grams, so if you talk about the iPhone, the iPhone is just 130 grams so even this boot is 30% lighter than the current iPhone 6! For us it's definitely an industry leading mindset we have and don't just do things for the sake of doing it. It is really about making sure that consumers can experience state of the art product.

People that have not held the boot yet will naturally question its durability, how do you ensure that it remains durable and competitive?
The way we designed the boot ticks all the boxes from a performance requirement point of view, so we have a super lightweight thin material, but on top of that base material we add a super thin film as a coating to make sure that this product can keep a high durability.

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Would you say 99 grams is the lightest a football boot can possibly be or are there plans to make that lighter for the future?
It's an interesting one. We definitely see ourselves as the only brand in the market that can do the 99g show. For us though, this boot is going to be more of a phycological thing, a thing that nobody has ever experienced before. We know that we create excitement with our products, so for us it's really the question of, 'how can we create more excitement' and 'how can we find new ways for our consumers to really look for industry leading products'. It's not about looking for the next lightest boot, it's about being super compelling in terms of what the next concept looks like – something that nobody has done before.

So this isn't the final chapter in lightweight design then, it is more of a new chapter in lightweight performance?
Absolutely not, for us it's an ongoing journey. Just because we hit 99g, we won't stop here. Lightweight will always be a big topic for players, so it's our target to make sure that we fulfill these needs.

Finally, can you tell us about the "Limited Collectin" series?
Yeah sure. The limited collection is an umbrella term for all limited edition products. The parameters within limited collection means that the range will be released in super limited quantities like the 99 gram boot which is the first limited collection product and showcase the best of adidas football.

Get a closer look at the adidas adizero 99g right here.

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