20 years ago the battle for supremacy in the athletic shoe and apparel war was a close one between the fast rising, Nike and the second power on the block Reebok, but now two decades later the latter is almost non-existent both within the world of sports and on the shelves inside of department and sporting goods stores. What happened to Reebok?
Reebok was founded in 1895 as J.W. Foster and Sons in the United Kingdom and then was later renamed to the moniker which we all now it as in 1958 by the company’s founders grandsons, Joe and Jeff Foster. Rebok began making their products available in American stores in 1979 and from that time until the past 10 years or so had a pretty good run doing so.
By now, I’m quite sure that we know Reebok was purchased by Adidas in 2005 for a reported $3.8 billion (according to MSNBC). When the deal was made representatives from both companies said the reason for the buyout or merger if you will was to allow both companies to combine their resources in attempts to make a serious run at taking down Nike for the number spot in America, however in the now almost eight years following the business transaction it seems that Adidas is definitely seen more (in stores, on television, in magazines and in billboards) but Reebok is now hardly noticed anywhere.
In 2002 Reebok signed a deal with the NFL to have the exclusive rights for all authentic and replica jerseys as well as all sideline apparel, caps and on-field footwear (which is the main reason I think Adidas purchased the company); that contract ended prior to the beginning of the 2012 season and wasn’t renewed instead the NFL decided to sign another deal with Nike. Reebok is the official supplier to the NHL for all of their jerseys and apparel, but hey you won’t be seeing any of those on the ice anytime soon thanks to their player lockout.
In 2003 Reebok agreed to a deal with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and released his S. Carter shoe which became the fastest selling shoe in the company’s 108-year history at that point. Later the company then agreed to a deal with another hip-hop artist, 50 Cent and even signed actress Scarlett Johansson to release collection of shoes and apparel called Scarlett Hearts. All signs pointed to them continuing to thrive well into the 2000’s however the owners sold the company and now seeing their products or just simply hearing the name Reebok seems scarcer than seeing waterfalls in the Sahara or hearing opera music at a heavy metal concert.
Do you remember the Reebok Pumps? I know I do every kid growing up in the late-80’s and early-90’s wanted a pair of those because thanks to the commercials and Dee Brown we all thought we would be able to fly through the air if we wore them. Or how about the Blacktop Series or the Shaq’s? I just recently looked through an Eastbay catalog and surprising only saw two pages of Reebok shoes and apparel out of 76 pages of merchandise (if you include the back cover) as opposed to 39 pages of Nike apparel and shoes and even more shocking eight pages of Adidas apparel and shoes. That got me to thinking; Did Adidas purchase Reebok not to overtake Nike but to remove Reebok from their number two spot so that they could take it.
Humor this thought for a second; If Reebok had still been around as prevalent as they once were would Adidas been able to sign mega-star athletes such as Derrick Rose or Robert Griffin III. Before Adidas purchased Reebok if a star athlete didn’t sign with Nike for whatever reason then they signed with Reebok (Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Peyton Manning, Yao Ming, Eli Manning and the list goes on and on). Adidas made headlines in 1997 when Kobe Bryant decided to sign with them instead of both Nike and Reebok because until that time there weren’t any big named American professional athletes were endorsed their shoes or apparel. Did Adidas really purchase Reebok just to move them out of the way?
Of course I have no hardcore, solid evidence to prove this thought that I have yet to mold into a conspiracy theory but if I ever do gather enough I will certainly turn it into an article. At the conclusion of this piece I’m still left pondering what happened to Reebok and now it’s time foe me to do some more investigating so I can figure out the $3.8 billion question.