How Reebok came up in the sneaker industry

Reebok represents a true innovator in the retail industry but not many sneaker heads know how they managed to secure their spot in the shoe game with the company’s strategy being something that we rarely see in this market.

After having a major release and surprising everyone with their creativity, Reebok seems to step back until the next product is ready to hit the shelves but at the same time their name remains relevant in the field. Despite anything bad that you might think about the company, Reebok earned a good amount of respect from shoe lovers and below we’re going to enlist a few reasons why their story is still relevant for many sneaker collectors.

The beginning

Before there was a Reebok brand there was the JW Fosters and Sons company that had its early beginnings in 1895. The company started manufacturing and distributing shoes the same year but their first noticeable success happened in 1924 when a few athletes wore their shoes at the Summer Olympics games.

No less than 34 years later, in 1958, JW Fosters and Sons decided to branch out by creating another company that they would later name Reebok, which means African Gazelle and hints at speed, style and grace. Even if the company managed to sell quite a few shoes in the United Kingdom they were hardly even noticed on the worldwide market until 1979 when Reebok made their appearance at the Chicago International sneaker trade show.

The US market

Back in 1979, Paul Fireman believed that the U.K. brand’s shoes had a lot of potential and proposed to the company a deal that included their shoes being sold in United States. Fireman was working for a sport goods distributor and he was immediately fascinated how the shoes were build, customized and designed.

After the deal was completed, Reebok had their first 3 pair of running shoes introduced to the U.S. market with Paul Fireman having so much confidence in the brand’s quality that he set the price for the shoes at $60 – the highest in the market for this type of product at the time. The strategy paid off and by 1981, Reebok USA exceeded $1.5 million in sales with their track shoes.

Reebok Pump

That was not the only time Reebok was going to change the game because in 1982 the company introduced the first athletic shoe designed for women only. The move helped the brand conquer the majority of the market by early 1980 and in 1989 the first edition of Reebok Pumps hit their retailer’s shelves.

The shoe was designed specifically for basketball and featured a small air bladder that had the ability to be inflated with a pump located in the shoe tongue. When pushed, the basketball-shaped bladder inflated to offer more comfort for the ankles when playing basketball and that was of course an important innovation at the time.

Despite debuting in stores for the price of $170, double than any other basketball shoe at the time, the first edition of Reebok Pump sold in over 20 million pairs worldwide and boosted the brand as a solid name in the sneaker game. Boston Celtic rookie Dee Brown also made a good contribution to Reebok’s popularity by wearing the shoe in the 1991 Slam Dunk contest. A memorable moment took place when Brown inflated his Reeboks right before executing his final dunk of the night.

That made the crowd go wild and the shoes instantly became popular but the brand lost their market as quickly as they earned it. However, Reebok got back on the right track with the help of another basketball player – Allen Iverson. The brand targeted Iverson back in 1996 and signed him for the next 4 years with the NBA player successfully managing to promote the brand both on and off the court while becoming a basketball legend. Allen’s shoe “The Answer” got Reebok back on the top of the game and in 2001 the brand made a huge deal by agreeing with Allen Iverson to a lifetime contract until his retirement.

That made the crowd go wild and the shoes instantly became popular but the brand lost their market as quickly as they earned it. However, Reebok got back on the right track with the help of another basketball player – Allen Iverson. The brand targeted Iverson back in 1996 and signed him for the next 4 years with the NBA player successfully managing to promote the brand both on and off the court while becoming a basketball legend. Allen’s shoe “The Answer” got Reebok back on the top of the game and in 2001 the brand made a huge deal by agreeing with Allen Iverson to a lifetime contract until his retirement.

In 2005 Reebok introduced the Above the Rim (ATR) Pump and during the 2005 All Star game, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming premiered the shoe to the world. Steve Francis, Baron Davis and Jerome Williams were also backing up the new release but the brand was soon to have its stocks sold to another major company dealing with sportswear.

The deal with Adidas

Having to compete with Reebok for the second place in U.S. shoe sales, Adidas decided to purchase the brand for $3.78 billion in 2005. Back in 2004 Nike managed to secure 36% of the market shared in United States and Adidas scored 21% combined with Reebok, that were now their partners. The 2 brands are still competing until this day against Nike, a major player in the game that still holds the number 1 spot on lock.

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