J.W. Foster and Spikes of Fire
Reebok's United Kingdom-based ancestor company was founded for one of the best reasons possible: athletes wanted to run faster. So, in the 1890s, Joseph William Foster made some of the first known running shoes with spikes in them. By 1895, he was in business makingshoes by hand for top runners; and before long his fledgling company, J.W. Foster and Sons, developed an international clientele of distinguished athletes. The family-owned business proudly made the running shoes worn in the 1924 Summer Games by the athletes celebrated in the film "Chariots of Fire."
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A Gazelle Named Reebok, A Company on the Move
In 1958, two of thefounder's grandsons started a companion company that came to be known as Reebok, named for an African gazelle. In 1979, Paul Fireman, a partner in an outdoor sporting goods distributorship, spotted Reebok shoes at an international trade show. He negotiated for the North American distribution license and introduced three running shoes in the U.S. that year. At $60, they were the most expensiverunning shoes on the market.
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By 1981, Reebok's sales exceeded $1.5 million, but a dramatic move was planned for the next year. In 1982, Reebok introduced the first athletic shoe designed especially for women; a shoe for a hot new fitness exercise called aerobic dance. The shoe was called the Freestyle™, and with it Reebok anticipated and encouraged three major trends thattransformed the athletic footwear industry: the aerobic exercise movement, the influx of women into sports and exercise and the acceptance of well-designed athletic footwear by adults for street and casual wear. Explosive growth followed, which Reebok fueled with new product categories, making Reebok an industry leader.
In the midst of surging sales in 1985, Reebok completed its initialpublic offering (stock symbol is NYSE: RBK). A year later, Reebok made its first strategic acquisition, The Rockport Company. Rockport was a pioneer in using advanced materials and technologies in traditional shoes and the first company to engineer walking comfort in all types of dress and casual shoes. In the late 1980s, Reebok began an aggressive expansion into overseas markets and Reebok productsare now available in more than 170 countries and are sold through a network of independent and Reebok-owned distributors.
Creating innovative products that generate excitement in the marketplace has been a central corporate strategy ever since Reebok introduced the Freestyle. In the late 1980s, a particularly productive period began with The Pump® technology and continues today, withbreakthrough concepts and technologies for numerous sports and fitness activities.
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In 1992, Reebok began a transition from a company identified principally with fitness and exercise to one equally involved in sports by creating several new footwear and apparel products for football, baseball, soccer, track and field and other sports. That same year, Reebok began its partnershipwith golfer Greg Norman, resulting in the creation of The Greg Norman Collection.
In the late 1990s, Reebok made a strategic commitment to align its brand with a select few of the world’s most talented, exciting and cutting-edge athletes. Since then, the company has focused on those athletes who represent the top echelon of sports and fitness.
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In 2000, Reebok and theNational Football League announced an exclusive partnership that serves as a foundation of the NFL’s consumer products business. The NFL granted a long-term exclusive license to Reebok beginning in the 2002 NFL season to manufacture, market and sell NFL licensed merchandise for all 32 NFL teams. The license includes on-field uniforms, sideline apparel, practice apparel and an NFL-branded footwear...