Reebok is a shoe manufacturer that has left its mark on pop culture with tennis, gym, and basketball shoes and endorsements from celebrity personalities on special edition shoes. It's a brand that is well-known and embraced by many. They hold their own with the top competitors Adidas and Nike, with a solid history of evolutionary technology and innovations in design. Here are 20 things you didn't know about Reebok.
1. Reebok was launched in 1958
The Reebok brand started out as an extension of the JW Foster and Sons company which as started in 1895. It has a long history of quality behind it. They manufactured shoes in the United Kingdom but were not a highly recognized brand. The Foster company supplied footwear for athletes participating at the 1924 Summer Olympics. The Reebok company started as a subdivision of JW Foster under the direction and inspiration of Mr. Foster's grandsons who wanted to start their own store. They named the company Reebok.
2. The name means Gazelle
We had previously read that the brand name was chosen because they wanted a name that had no meaning. After doing a little more research, we discovered that the reason the name Reebok was chosen was that it actually means African Gazelle. This was a good way to compare the shoes to the grace, speed, and swiftness of the animal, translated into the benefits of the shoe.
3. Reeboks weren't popular until 1979
The Fosters were having a rough time getting Reebok noticed by the world and they struggled for recognition until their break came in 1979. The shoes were on display at the Chicago International sneaker trade show when the brand was noticed by Paul Fireman. He was employed with an outdoor distributor and he liked the customization of the shoes and recognized the quality. He felt that these factors were enough to make the shoes popular in North America. Fireman struck a deal for licensing of Reebok in the United States and this was the official launch of Reebok in the USA.
4. Reebok excelled in the US market in 1981
Fireman was the front man for the Reebok brand in the US. He set the price at $60 per pair, which was high at the time. Within two years, sales of Reebok in the United States soared past $1.5 million. The styles that were offered to the public at this time were just 3 kinds of uncomplicated track shoes.
5. Women's Reeboks weren't introduced until 1982
While realizing that Reebok was a new brand in the US in the 1980s, they had been on the market for three years before Reebok offered its first model designated for women. The impact that it had on sales in the US market was tremendous. This would set a new trend is sales that allowed the Reebok brand to dominate the market in the industry in the early 1980s.
6. The pump has only been around since 1989
The Reebok brand turned its focus on basketball with the introduction of the pump design. The shoes had a built-in air bladder that could be inflated with air by pushing the basketball shaped pump on the shoe to inflate the bladder inside and give the shoe a more customized fit. It was a notion borrowed from the Nike Air and it was very much competition based and an answer to their competition's most popular model at the time. The price tag of $170 was slapped on Reebok's new sneaker which was almost double the prices of their other sneakers or any other basketball shoes for that matter. Even though they were more expensive, the model was popular and within four years, twenty million pairs of the Reebok pump had been sold throughout the world.
7. Sales increased with celebrity athlete endorsements
Reebok saw an even higher spike in sales when they joined forces with Dee Brown, a rookie with the Boston Celtic team in 1991. He wore a pair of high profile Reebok pumps to an All-Star Slam Dunk contest. The black, orange and white pumps were attention getters and Brown did his part by bending over to deflate the shoes and give fans a little demonstration of how cool they were. This single act was all that it took for kids and adults to want their own pair and the sales for Reebok pumps soared after the event.
8. A fading fad
After the 1991 exhibition, Reebok enjoyed a brief period of high sales and decent profits from the Brown endorsement. When fans had their fill of the pumps and the newness had worn off, sales went down just as quickly as they had spiked. Reebok was left without a major calling card in the game of sneaker sales. The company had put too much stock in just one model and they had nothing to offer the public that would once again entice major buying events. You could call it a lesson learned. Sales declined throughout the rest of the decade. Although Reebok tried a few different approaches, they were in need of a new strategy.
9. Reebok turned to the NBA for endorsements
The sales were not ideal up until 1996. Reebok took on a new strategy and hit up Allen Iverson of the NBA to endorse their sneakers on the court and off. The newcomer to the profession was rising in fame and they had made a solid choice in selecting his as representative. With Iverson, Reebok developed a new shoe they titled "The Answer." The strategy was paying off and with sales once again on the increase, Reebok made the bold move of signing a life-long contract with Iverson to endorse the brand as long as he remained in the NBA.
10. New pumps and more celebrity endorsements
Reebok designed their second Above the Rim Pump basketball sneaker in 2005. They moved the location of the pump to the outside ankle of the shoe to give it more visibility. Iverson continued to wear the shoes both on and off the court, but they added to the athletic celebrity endorsers sporting the brand to include Baron Davis, Jerome Williams, Steve Francis, and Yao Ming. This was intended to show the shoe's usefulness in enhancing playing abilities on the court and to present them as a pro-basketball player approved sneaker.
11. Reebok was bought out in 2005
It wasn't long after the second release of the pump sneaker that a German company called Adidas-Salomon purchased Reebok for a whopping $3.78 billion. The long-standing battle for second place under the industry leader Nike had inspired the take-over. Adidas was the competitor that Reebok found itself constantly pitted against. The common wisdom of the day led both sneaker companies to believe that joining their forces together may allow them to unseat the number one sneaker manufacturer and take the top position. So far, Nike has retained their leadership position, but Reebok and Adidas are still holding their own.
12. The aerobics trend boosted Reebok sales
When the new fitness craze hit American in the 1980s, it was good news for Reebok. We talked earlier about their creation of a model designated for women. The women's shoe was intended for the ladies who were getting caught up in the aerobics craze and the women's Reebok Freestyle shoe was the right approach. They made it an attractive shoe, but also one that was comfortable. Sales were great as they boosted the annual sales for the company from just $4 million to $1.4 billion.
13. A nun wore black Reeboks to the royal wedding
If this isn't the best kind of advertisement for the brand, we're not certain what is. When Prince William wed Kate Midleton, there are photos of the event to prove that a nun in attendance at the royal event was sporting a pair of black colored Reeboks. Although it's not usually considered the most appropriate apparel for such a gala event, they're comfortable. It was a bit embarrassing for the sister when news about the occurrence was shared and the father revealed her name, but she gets a pass on this one.
14. Rebook entered into a 10-yr partnership with CrossFit
The Reebok company is always looking for suitable partnerships to promote their products and create new models that the public would take an interest in. These often coincide with the current trends in society and are directly aimed towards lifestyle trends. They signed a deal with CrossFit in 2010 to get in on the subculture of lifters and those involved in heavy workouts. As a promotional event, Reebok made a significant contribution at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games by keeping in-step with the Paleo diet that many of them embrace and they gave away bacon, which is a meat that is endorsed by the diet.
15. They hired a 25-year-old to design Ripley's Shoes for Aliens
Reebok hired Tuan Le when he was only 25, to come on board with their design team. He was charged with creating a pair of sneakers for the Ridley Scott film "Alien." He worked intensively with 20th Century Fox prior to beginning his work. The rest of the design team were busy on aerobics model development at the time, so Le was pretty much on his own. The requirements were quite simple actually. They had to slip off the feet of actress Sigourney Weaver who would play Ripley, easily. The 20th Century Fox team wasn't concerned about the colors or even the design with the exception that they must slide off the foot easily. Le went with a velcro strap closure on the shoe.
16. Reebok maintains a fitness theme in its company culture
The Reebok company made some changes in the Spring of 2016. They decided to implement a new health initiative that would be company-wide. They banned certain food items from their cafeteria that they believed to be unhealthy. These included soda, large candy bars, white bread, and pasta. If employees wanted to bring these items into work from home, they were still allowed to do so, but Reebok wasn't going to provide it for them.
17. Reebok was the first to introduce Speed Lacing
Of the three leaders in the sneaker industry, it was Reebok that first introduced the reinforced eyelets that are found in their speed lacing design. None of the others had considered this design until 1992 when it appeared in the Shaq Attaq campaign. Well, they were the first basketball sneaker to include this feature anyway.
18. Shaq directed his own commercials for Reebok
Reebok's collaboration with celebrity endorser Shaquille O'Neil resulted in a variety of commercials which were made for television advertising of the brand's shoes. Shaq took the lead and he insisted on directing the commercials himself. He took the lead and it turned out pretty well for Reebok because the campaign was a success and did increase the brand's popularity.
19. The Shaq Attack was done in a hurry
Don't worry, the quality of the shoes made during the Shaq Attack period were as high as any other Reebok, but the designer for the project shared that from the time that the concept for the Shaq Attack shoe was shared until the time that it was court ready was just a little under four months. This is record time for turning a concept into a fully tested and tweaked model of a pro-basketball shoe. The crew pulled it off nicely though, it just meant that they would all need to burn a little more of the midnight oil than usual.
20. The Shaq Attack has an inspiration on the sole
Here's a novel and fun fact about Reebok. When they designed the shoe, Shaq had a lot of input into the design. In fact, he even invited the designer, Judy Close, to have a dinner of ribs and mac n' cheese with his family while they discussed their plans. This isn't the really good part though. There is an engravement of a Rudyard Kipling poem from 1895 on the bottom of the shoe. It's from the poem "If." Of course, it's Shaq's interpretation of the words, but we think he nailed it. It says "All Men Count On You, But None Too Much." This is something new that we learned about the shoe that we didn't know before.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson