Andrew Thompson on... Reebok's rebound potential
Reebok wasn’t always the beleaguered sports brand that many have recently read about. In the 1980s and early 1990s Reebok was culturally and commercially successful and extremely formidable amidst sports titans Adidas and Nike.
The wave of product success included being the first company to capitalise on the aerobic craze, with Jane Fonda wearing the iconic “Freestyle” trainer, Allen Iverson made his NBA debut wearing “Question” and Dee Brown won the 1991 NBA slam dunk contest wearing “Omni Lites” The brand boasted ambassadors such as Shaquille O'Neal, and Allen Iverson, who signed a lifetime deal worth a mega $200,000,000 in 2001.
After the flow of explosive success in footwear Reebok extended its offer in different performance categories, however the drawback was that the brand's staying power did not last and by the end of the decade it was clear that Nike was becoming the US market leader.
Adidas' $3.8 billion buy-out of Boston-based Reebok in 2005 allowed Adidas, based in Germany, to significantly grow their presence in the US market. The deal gave the united companies a chance to combine their resources in order take on a big competitor such as Nike.
However, I’m not sure whether there was ever a feeling of complete equilibrium with the joint venture. After a failed strategy, which mainly hinged on increasing their women's customers and fitness categories, it was hard to really to decipher what the brand stood for in a contemporary setting.
Reebok also enrolled an impressive roster of signature collaborations including Kendrick Lamar, Ariana Grande, Cardi B, and in addition brands such as Pyer Moss, jjjound, Vetements and Palace. But perhaps, respectfully, this didn’t have enough contextual heft in comparison to Adidas and Nikes hailed collaborations which boasted the likes of Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Travis Scott.
On a personal level I’ve had great appreciation of the recent brand engagements and especially the recent appointment of Kerby Jean-Raymond named as the new global creative director, who is well known for instilling a sense of social purpose into whatever he does. Also, the collaborations with future-facing indie brands such as Story MFG, Braindead, Nepenthes and Dime added huge credibility with aficionados.
Subsequently In February 2020, Adidas officially put the brand up for sale. After financial struggles. Adidas announced on 12 August, 2021 that it would sell Reebok to Authentic Brands Group for €2.1 billion.
The upside for Reebok's new owner ABG, is fantastic foundation of Classics the brand has ranging from Reebok classics, Reebok Pumps, to the ubiquitous Reebok Club C.
The comforting childhood memories that hit all the right notes for me engulfed in anything 90s and NBA affiliated. I had a pair of Questions and Shaqnosis both iconic basketball sneakers which still have a sense of permanence in contemporary sportswear aesthetic.
My closing thoughts are will Reebok change course again? I do hope that with a rethought approach when it comes to strategy and narrative, this sports brand will once again reach global success. One thing is certain there are plenty opportunities to thrive from a new vantage point and explore stratospheric possibilities. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022.
Andrew Thompson is a thought leader with over twenty years' experience as a footwear Trend Forecaster and Design Director having worked with brands such as Vans USA, Kurt Geiger, Topman, Nicole Fahri and Clarks International to name a few. His is also founder of global consultancy Fablefootworks.