Before they became Adidas executives, Nicole Vollebregt and Kelly Olmstead were athletes with two different backgrounds. Vollebregt was a figure skater, went to the University of Toronto and worked for an agency after school. Olmstead played both volleyball and softball and earned her bachelors degree at Willamette University in Oregon.Both knew they wanted to continue to work in sports in some capacity. Vollebregt reached out to Adidas in Germany and thought she would work there for one or two years. That was back in 1997, 19 years before she became global head of womens business. After Olmstead finished her collegiate sports career, she remembers thinking, I cant be done. An alumni exchange program led to her meeting the president of Adidas North America and eventually landing a job with the company, where she now serves as its vice president of brand activation.They met early on in their tenures. Though when they did, Olmstead was on the cubicle side of the hallway while Vollebregt sat on the glass office side. The two of them work together from Adidas offices in Portland, Oregon, to try to lead the company into a new market that takes a larger focus on women and features a relatively new subscription-based service.New vision, new athletesNicole Vollebregt: Weve been making products for women since the beginning of our company and our founder, Adi Dassler, worked with some of the great athletes like Wilma Rudolph back in the day. But I think what has been the biggest change in putting together a womens team to look across the company is focusing on the new opportunity thats emerged in sport, which is the emergence of this -- we call her the versatile female athlete. They may or may not be the best name, but essentially its that post-collegiate athlete whos every bit an athlete as they were back in college or in high school, just a different type. They do a lot more different activities, but they are really committed to what the role sport can play in their life and living a lifestyle that includes sport. Its our opportunity now to embrace those women and see this entire new emergence of a whole new generation of athletes. In the past, we may have focused more on the high school or the college or the professional athlete. Its now widening our scope on what our definition of an athlete is.Kelly Olmstead: Shes maybe accessible, maybe inspirational to me, but thats what I think when we look at the campaign that we just put out into market, celebrating these different women, a really broad range of women who are highly competitive by their own terms of I want to be healthier, whether its at rock climbing or at running or just connecting with people and inspiring them to be fitter.Were not trying to force feed these untouchable icons to her; were trying to say we recognize these women are the ones who get you out of bed every day. These are the women who you need motivation to go to SoulCycle or to get you on your run. I think it is more about celebrating them at the level that we traditionally put these untouchable icons at, putting them up there and pointing to some of these major achievements. When we talk about what a woman does to balance her career, her own personal health, help her family, stay healthy and connected, we are trying to say that is a very extraordinary achievement in todays world and look to those as the new superstars.Vollebregt: From a brand perspective, women are influenced much more by their peers and by the inspirational athletes they see at their own gym and in their daily life, so when we change the way that we behave as a brand -- its traditionally been only top, top professional athletes driving down and using their message and their stories to inspire our consumers -- and I think what Womens will do for our brand will be helping create more women who speak to women about their stories and about their goals and about their inspiration. To us, that feels like a much more real and authentic way to grow our brand, which is much more on her terms.Work-life integrationVollebregt: I get up very, very early. A lot of people I work with are in Germany, so Im usually on the phone by 6 and doing conference calls usually until 10 or 11. In that amount of time, sometimes Ive made breakfast for my daughter with the phone on mute and driven her to school and the people on the phone have no idea thats happening, but it is. The afternoon is trying to get caught up in work, answering emails and work on next iterations of strategic plans, and hopefully spending some time to look out in the world as well and trying to leave at a reasonable time to pick up my daughter from school.I think theres no such thing (as work-life balance) anymore. I think you have to love what you do these days. I certainly have never left my job. Even if I leave at 5 oclock, Im never done thinking about it. I think its all sort of blurred together, which I dont mind, actually. Work-life balance has become about how you have it all in your head and compartmentalized different parts of your day. Its not something I strive to find; I think its something that you just need to figure out what you get from work and what you get from your personal life and how it all fits together. It doesnt feel like something that you balance anymore.Many identitiesVollebregt: Because our brand is so big and we have so many, we call them channels of distribution, so many places where our brand can be present. Its about really looking at the entire collection of female athletes through her whole life journey and making sure that we have the right packages of products for that consumer and then for each level of distribution. Its going into more information, but we will develop a specific product for an account like Dicks Sporting Goods thats absolutely right for that consumer. We also want to make sure we have the right product to sell at Barneys or at Bandier and the right product for Six:02, which is the new Foot Locker flagship. So its really understanding that there isnt just one type of woman and one type of activity, and using the breadth of our brand from performance to style, which we luckily have, to bring it together and make sure that were able to offer at different price-points and at different areas of distribution, really something that can be for everybody. There shouldnt be a woman who is an athlete who cant buy product from us. They should all find something they love.From Shark Tank to Avenue AOlmstead: Weve made a lot of efforts, both globally and locally, to find new ways to recognize great ideas. We have a system, I dont know if youd call it a contest, that we went through this year called the Shark Tank where anyone at any point in the organization can come up with ideas, something they thought, Hey, I dont know why were not doing this. I think we should be doing this. I think we had over 800 submissions or something like that, and it ended with this really inspirational, amazing day where the top teams were able to talk through their ideas. We had a panel of both internal and external influential leaders in the industry to test and challenge some of those ideas. I think several teams, if not all of them, walked away with significant funding to execute their ideas.One of the ideas that came out of the first contest was Avenue A, which is subscription-based shopping for women and running. I think we are being asked to think unconventionally and to partner in new ways and to break down barriers of what group do I work in and what am I responsible for to find the next great ideas that will make consumers ability to embed sport in their life that much easier. ... I know that its not intended to be only for women forever. I think its absolutely a concept that can and will be used to the male athlete as well.Women leading the chargeVollebregt: Largely, what weve spoken about in terms of the use of icons as we call them or superstar male athletes resonate more with men than with women and is something we know to be true. I think actually, depending at what age, if you look at high school or the collegiate athlete, theres a lot less of a difference between men and women than we realize, maybe a bit moreso post-college. I think thats changing as well. I think, in a lot of respects, its women who are leading the shift to the modern athlete, and I think men are following in terms of the transition thats happened in the way that people stay fit and the way that they are interested in nutrition and the way that they see a wholistic life. I have done quite a few interviews on this with male journalists and they always say, Everything youre saying applies to me, too. I think its absolutely true. 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Deep down, even a four-time Super Bowl champ who will likely go down as the greatest quarterback of all time could feel a little threatened by that.Bill Belichick has already Gronk-spiked the notion that a 4-0 Garoppolo could keep Brady on the bench for Week 5 in Cleveland, so theres no point in harboring any crazy ideas. Only heres the thing: Everyone gets replaced at some point, thanks to human frailty and the indomitable forces of gravity and time. Just as clearly as Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr and Larry Bird were replaced in Boston, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. is going to be replaced in Foxborough.And Sunday night, Garoppolo offered up the first strong suggestion that he might be the man worthy of the honor. In fact, as a nod to Bradys childhood idol, Joe Montana, Garoppolo showed he just might be the New England Patriots answer to Steve Young.No, Garoppolo doesnt have Youngs athleticism, even if Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians tried warning his team during the week that the new Patriots quarterback had feet like Michael Vick. But Garoppolo, 24, can move around in ways Brady cannot, and the time he bought for himself was critical in this highly improbable 23-21 victory over a home team that was, by Arians admission, obviously not ready to play.More to the point, the Cardinals were not ready to play against this version of Garoppolo, who walked into his first career start facing the worst kind of circumstances. Carson Wentz got the Cleveland Browns at home. Garoppolo? He traveled across the country to face a Super Bowl contender with a fearsome defense, a thundering dome crowd and every reason to believe it would shred a Patriots offense missing the injured Rob Gronkowski and a couple of starters on the offensive line.The Patriots were 9?-point underdogs, the biggest spread against them since they upset the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl nearly 15 years ago. I picked New England to go 3-1 without Brady. I thought this would be the 1.And yet Garoppolo was last seen walking out of University of Phoenix Stadium with a self-satisfied smirk on his face and two footballs tucked under his left arm, one a game ball. He took smelling salts before the game (Nothing crazy, it just gets you going, he said), and then it was no Brady, no Gronk, no problem from there.Garoppolo overthrew Chris Hogan on the first play of the rest of his life, and then he calmly led the Patriots on an eight-play, 74-yard drive. He found a wide-open Hogan down the left sideline for a 37-year-old touchdown, following the game plan that instructed him to attack the Arizona rookie corner?Brandon Williams, who had been a running back for most of his college career.Garoppolo?weathered his share of big hits as the night unfolded and backed up Belichicks earlier claims about his physical toughness. In the second quarter, Garoppolo was blasted by a blitzing Tony Jefferson on a second-down incompletion, then he stood tall on the very next play in hitting Hogan for 19 yards.Jimmy made some really gutsy plays, Patriots defensive end?Chris Long said. He has a quiet confidence, and everyone on this team was confident in him.Garoppolo did fumble the ball on a sack, and the Cardinals did recover and later score to cut their deficit to 10-7. But in the fight for that loose ball, Garoppolo angrily rolled over the top of his former teammate, Chandler Jones, and dug an arm underneath the linebacker in a vain attempt to rip away the ball. In other words, even in his worst moment Sunday night, Garoppolo was putting up a fight.He caught his own deflected pass and ran for three yards (lets see Brady do that). He scrambled 10 yards for a first down. He burned Williams again, and he kept denting Arizonas spirit with big thirdd-down plays (the Patriots converted 10 of 16 chances).ddddddddddddn the fourth quarter, after the great Larry Fitzgerald did what the great Larry Fitzgerald does -- borrowing an over-the-head catch out of the Willie Mays playbook for his 100th career touchdown -- Garoppolo had to deliver the throw of the night on third-and-15, with the home crowd at full roar. He used his dancers feet, stepped up and fired a pass down the middle just before he got drilled from behind. Danny Amendola made the 32-yard catch, and soon enough Stephen Gostkowski was returning a lead to the Patriots that they wouldnt surrender.Hes incredible, Patriots defensive back?Devin McCourty said of Garoppolo. All game he went out there and made the plays he was supposed to make.We believed in him. There was no doubt in this locker room that Jimmy could go out there and play.The Cardinals had their chance to reduce the visiting quarterbacks performance?to a moral victory, the equivalent of a mortal sin in New England, but they botched the snap and the kick that wouldve done the trick. Belichick wasted precious seconds before finally calling a timeout before Arizonas last-ditch field goal attempt; he explained that when he saw the Cardinals rush onto the field, he figured (incorrectly) that they would rush the kick and allow him to save the timeout for Garoppolo.The scene summoned the memory of Belichicks dramatic timeout gamble the last time his team had played in this building in the Super Bowl 19 months ago, when Belichicks stare down of a frazzled Pete Carroll led to Seattles, well, you know what it led to.When it was over Sunday night, Belichick wanted no part of the canonization of Saint Jimmy, mocking the notion that he cared a lick about Garoppolos play as the news medias lead storyline. His former boss, Bill Parcells, liked to say a certain great player was heading to Canton on roller skates. Belichick wasnt about to lace em up for his kid quarterback.Good, was the coachs assessment of Garoppolos play. Asked to elaborate, Belichick said, Its been good. He made some plays. Its not perfect, but he made a lot of good plays.As it turned out, Garoppolo made enough good plays to complete 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards, and to go punch for punch with an old pro, Carson Palmer. By comparison, a 24-year-old Tom Brady was no comparison in his first NFL start; he went 13-for-23 for 168 yards and no touchdowns in a Week 3 victory over the Colts in 2001.Garoppolo said he was amped up before the game. He didnt need any time to catch up to the speed of his first regular-season game -- and to remain one step ahead of a defense heavily favored to eat him alive.We were confident going into the game, Garoppolo said, and it showed.Hes no longer a quarterback at Eastern Illinois, breaking?Tony Romos records and lighting it up against the?Eastern Kentuckys and Murray States. Garoppolo is officially a big leaguer now. He started acting that way when he called practice a smoother operation after the suspended Brady was banished from the grounds. And when he told WEEI of his possible not-too-distant future as a Patriots starter: Its a crazy league, and anythings possible, really.Just as crazy as it was on Sept. 23, 2001, the first Sunday of pro football after the 9/11 attacks. When Drew Bledsoe, $103 million man, was knocked out by Mo Lewis of the Jets, who could possibly believe that some sixth-round scarecrow could become what he became?Brady grew into a titan so big that the Patriots slapped an outsized banner of him on the Gillette Stadium lighthouse. Now that banner has been taken down, physically and symbolically, to make room for Garoppolos team next Sunday.Brady will be the starting quarterback in October, but he knows this isnt a lifetime job. He watched his idol, Montana, get forced out in San Francisco. If Garoppolo turns out to be New Englands Steve Young, Bradys challenge will be to handle it with more grace than Montana did. 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