New Balance has been producing shoe accessories and footwear for over one hundred years and they are one of the best known trainer brands in the world. The company looks set to be around for many more years to come. Here are twenty facts about New Balance that you may not know.
1. The Company Was Founded In Boston
The New Balance Arch Support Company was founded in Boston in 1906. In the beginning they sold products that made shoes more comfortable rather than producing their own shoes. It was founded by William J. Riley who had emigrated to the United States from the UK. The main target audience for the products that they were selling were people that were on their feet all day at work. During this period the business was successful but its products were only sold in and around Boston.
2. They Manufacture In The US And UK
New Balance are different to other sports companies such as Nike because they manufacture all of their products in the US and UK. They have five facilities in the US and one in the UK. They sell their products in over 120 countries worldwide and all of these products are made in these six facilities. 30% of all their products that are sold in Europe are made in the UK. The fact that they are not using cheaper labor abroad does mean that they are slightly more expensive than their competitors.
3. Their Shoes Always Have Technical Features
Another reason that these shoes cost a little bit more is that they always contain a number of technical features. This includes things such as heel counters and blended gel inserts. The amount of features that the shoe has will largely depend on the amount of support that it needs to provide. Light running shoes may not have heel counters for example because they are not needed, but in shoes where they are needed they will always be found.
4. Their Shoes Come In A Wide Range Of Sizes
New Balance have some of the widest choice when it comes to sizing so that customers can find a shoe that fits them well. They are particularly well known for providing supportive shoes that have very narrow or very wide width fittings. This is something that people who have wide or narrow feet struggle with as it is not easy to find a comfortable shoe that fits well. They have been making their shoes with a variety of width fittings since their very first shoe was launched.
5. The First Product Made Was Inspired By A Chicken
The first product that the company made was an arch support which was placed inside footwear. This product provided support for the foot in three different places. The founder of the company, William J. Riley, observed the way that the chickens in his yard used the shape of their feet to help them balance and this was his inspiration. It is thought that this is the reason he came up with the name New Balance for his company. There are also rumors that he kept a chicken foot on his desk so he could demonstrate how balance is achieved.
6. Their First Shoe Hit The Market In 1960
The company did not start to make shoes until 1960 when they released a running shoe. This was called the New Balance Trackster and it was the first running shoe in the world that had a ripple sole. It was also available in varying widths and this was also something that had never been seen before. It quickly gained popularity in Boston where it was widely used by the YMCA in their athletic activities. It was also used in several local colleges such as MIT, Boston University and Tufts University where it became a favorite with track teams.
7. The Company Really Took Off In The 1970s
The fortunes of the company began to change in the 1970s when running really took off as a hobby in the United States. The fact that there was a marathon already held there meant that Boston was a focus for this hobby which meant the company were exactly in the right place at the right time. There was suddenly a demand for running shoes that would provide protection and support to the foot and this was exactly what New Balance were already producing. This growing demand for shoes also coincided with the period that the company had a new owner who was really keen to expand the business.
8. They Opposed The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)
When the Obama administration announced details of the TPP, New Balance were one of the first companies to come out and say that they did not support it. The company felt that they were being unfairly punished for manufacturing their shoes in the US because they would be eligible for lower tariffs if they made them abroad and then imported them back. This is the business method that Nike use and they were supportive of the agreement. There was concern that the agreement would have a detrimental affect on the US job market and this is a concern that was also shared by several high profile politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton.
9. Warrior Sports Is A Subsidiary Of The Company
Warrior Sports started life as a subsidiary of New Balance that focused on sports like hockey and lacrosse. It began to get involved in other sports and it was this brand that originally partnered with Liverpool FC to provide their kit. However, the kit that was produced was not a big hit and received some criticism from fans and critics alike. It was decided that the branding for Liverpool should change to New Balance as this was a brand that was more well known in the UK. Warrior Sports then went back to basics and started to rebuild its hockey and lacrosse business.
10. They Have Sponsorship Partnerships With A Number Of Football Teams
After the success of the partnership with Liverpool FC they began to sponsor a number of other football teams all over the world. This includes a number of club teams such as FC Porto, Athletic Bilbau and Tulsa Roughnecks FC. They also sponsor national teams of several countries including the Republic of Ireland, Costa Rica and Panama. This is an area of the business where there is still a lot of room to expand and Nike and Adidas do not have the hold on making kits for big teams that they once did.
11. They Also Sponsor Several Individual Athletes
They also provide sponsorship to athletes across a wide range of sports. The ethos of the company has always been that they want to inspire ordinary people to get active and improve their health. With this in mind all their sponsorship is for athletes that do not have a huge fan base yet or those that are just starting out in their careers. Even though they may not be the most well known, athletes such as Stephanie Twell and Lisanne de Witte have competed at the Olympics and have had very successful careers. New Balance also sponsor national athletic teams including Antigua and New Zealand.
12. The Chairman Of The Company Is Jim Davis
Jim Davis purchased the company on the day of the 1972 Boston Marathon and he started to make changes almost straight away. The marketing strategy was changed to reach further than Boston and the shoes began to gain popularity in Washington. A big contribution to the success of the company was also made by his wife Anne who joined the business in 1978 before they were married. The couple did marry and went on to have two children. Jim Davis is the 94th richest person in the United States and has a personal wealth of over $5 billion.
13. Joe Preston Is The Current CEO
Joe Preston was announced as the new CEO of the company at the beginning of November 2018. He was the Chief Commercial Officer for the business before taking on this new role. His predecessor was Robert T. DeMartini who held the position for eleven years and also acted as President of the company in this time. Reshuffles of this kind are not uncommon in large corporations as it is easier to make a new appointment from within when the candidates know the business than it is to train an outsider.
14. They Have A Skateboarding Shoe Called The New Balance Numeric
One of the most popular shoes that they sell is the New Balance Numeric which is marketed as a skateboarding shoe. In order to create this shoe they partnered with professional skateboarder Jamie Thomas. Thomas has his own company Black Box Distribution which are responsible for the distribution of the shoe. New Balance appointed a specific brand manager for this shoe and all the associated promotions that go with it. They also provide sponsorship to a professional skateboarding team that is led by John Rattray.
15. They Also Produce Athletic Clothing And Accessories
As well as selling footwear they also have a wide range of other products that can be used in a number of different sports. Equipment and clothing is available for running, hiking, football, cricket and tennis among others. They have made a small move towards fashion clothing but the design behind this is still heavily influenced by sports clothing. They make clothing ranges for men, women and children.
16. They Caused Controversy Over Their Support Of Donald Trump
When Donald Trump became President of the US it was not a popular choice and there were many people that opposed him. A comment was made by the Vice President of the company Matt Lebretton that now Trump was in charge things might move in the right direction with regards to the TPP. This was taken as an endorsement of Trump which caused a bit of a backlash on social media. People posted pictures of themselves disposing of their New Balance products and some even threatened to boycott the business, although no real harm was done to the profits in the long run.
New Balance sponsor a bike share system in Boston where the company is still headquartered. This is similar to systems that exist in other major cities in the United States and all over the world. People are able to rent bikes from racks which are located all around the city and then they can return them to any other rack when they have finished using them. The scheme is designed to reduce the amount of traffic in the city as well as encouraging people to become more active when going about their daily business.
18. They Have A Partnership With Westin Hotels
In order to encourage people to be more active when they are traveling, New Balance have formed a partnership with Westin Hotels. This allows people who are staying in these hotels to rent sports clothing and footwear that has been provided by New Balance. This is ideal for people that are travelling on business who do not want to pack a lot of things for their trip. Once the clothes have been finished with then they can just be left in the room and the hotel staff will deal with them.
19. They Have A Contract With The Defense Logistics Agency
They have a contract with the Defense Logistics Agency to provide athletic shoes for the armed forces in the US including the army, navy and the marines. This contract is worth over $17 million. The footwear will be used by new recruits who are just starting their basic training. The Berry amendment states that all equipment that the US Armed Forces use should be made in the United States but this is not something that is always closely followed.
20. Customers Are Able To Design Their Own Shoe
New Balance sell shoes that are fully customizable so that customers are able to create something that is unique to them. The shoes can be ordered directly from the website and allow the customer to choose the colors that they want to be used to create their shoe. There are fourteen colors available and the shoe can be any combination of these.