Reebok: US-based sporting goods brand specializing in shoes



  1.  Origins: JW Foster and Sons
  2. Success and listing
  3. The pump shoe
  4. Stores
  5. Reebok Collaborations 
  6. Technical sponsor
  7. reebok and rap
  8. Acquisition by Adidas 
  9. Sustainability 

Origins: JW Foster and Sons

It was in 1895 that the English athlete Joseph William Foster started to produce a spiked-sole shoe for fast running. So, 1900, he and his sons founded the company JW Foster and Sons. Foster then opened a small factory called Olympic Works, which became famous among athletes.

Two of his grandsons founded a second company that absorbed JW Foster & Sons in 1958. Foster & Sons was named Reebok, after an African gazelle. A new turning point came in 1979 thanks to the intervention of Paul Fireman, a partner in a company that distributed outdoor sports products: the launch of Freestyle, the first aerobic shoe dedicated specifically to dance. Its success took the company to the top of the international sports shoe market.

The company reached 1.5 million sales in 1982 and the following year debuted the Reebok Freestyle aerobics shoe, the first athletic shoe designed exclusively for women.

JW Foster and sons
JW Foster and sons

Success and Listing

By 1984, Fireman took over the company from Joseph Foster and turned it into a limited company with the symbol RBK. Clearly, in the following year saw they started by changing the logo, which saw the removal of the British flag to become a vector logo with an abstract stripe. The logo change also marked a change in brand strategy, which from this point onwards would place the emphasis on sporting performance.


During this period, it also began marketing clothing and a new line dedicated to children called Weeboks. In addition they had one of the most exclusive technologies ever produced by the brand was also designed: the Reebok Pump.

After Robert Meers’ ten-year leadership, Carl Yankowski was appointed CEO. In 1990, the Reebok Ventilator, a line of lightweight sneakers with ventilated side panels, was launched.

The Pump shoe

The Pump, a shoe that automatically inflates to fit the foot, was launched in 1998.

This concept was based on custom fit, ie the ability of the shoe to adapt to the wearer’s foot through a system of pump inflation and gradual release. Developed for basketball shoes, the technology soon found its way into football, tennis, football, running, training, walking and aerobics, and eventually into trainers.

To mark its 20th anniversary, the British brand has partnered with 20 top international stores to reissue the Pump Bringback in a limited edition of 31 pairs. In addition, a dedicated website was created and a film, “The History of Pump Technology”, made by video director Colin O’Toole.


In the early 2000s, the brand expanded worldwide the brand had opened single-brand retail shops in China, London, Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo. Following the same, Italy, Rome and Naples were chosen for the opening of the first Italian monobrand stores. The two spaces, respectively inside Termini station in the capital and in Corso Umberto 28 in Naples, host on an area of ​​over 50 square meters the Reebok Classics footwear and apparel collections, composed of iconic models such as Classic Leather, Freestyle and Pump.

Reebok store
Reebok store

Reebok Collaborations

The brand is engaged in intensive sponsorship and research in the fields of running, fitness, rugby, tennis, football, baseball, athletics, golf and mountaineering. In sportswear, it introduces Hydro move, an exclusive technology based on thermoregulation and comfort. Its structure allows body heat to push sweat out of the fabric for faster evaporation. The athlete, therefore, stays dry and the body maintains at constant temperature, this delays the state of fatigue helping to improve performance. Signs a multi-year contract with Venus Williams, the great tennis champion.

Venus Williams X Reebok
Venus Williams X Reebok

Technical Sponsor

At the same time, Reebok and the National Football League (NFL) announce an exclusive partnership that also aims to reorganize and reinvigorate the NFL product business. The 10-year contract calls for the NFL to license all production, distribution and sales of its brand for the 32 teams in the US league and the World League (Europe).

The license includes footwear, game uniforms, training apparel, post-game apparel and a new line of apparel. This agreement also gives Reebok exclusive rights to develop a new line of NFL-branded fitness equipment. It launches Reebok Fitness Water in North America in partnership with Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation. Reebok Fitness Water is a highly advanced product that is rich in essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.

In fact, Reebok Fitness Water meets the needs of sporty, health-conscious consumers. Reebok signs another important ten-year strategic partnership agreement with the NBA, the National Basketball League. Through this agreement Reebok has acquired the rights to design, produce and distribute all NBA, Women’s and National Basketball Development League merchandise. Paul Smith has designed a limited edition trainer for Reebok with a vaguely ’80s look and is on sale for € 145. The company has a turnover of $ 3.1 billion.

Shaquille O 'neal X reebok
Shaquille O ‘neal X reebok

Reebok and Rap

A new entry in the fashion and rap phenomenon: this is the long-term partnership between Reebok and 50 Cent, the rapper at the top of the world’s best-selling album charts. The first fruit of the collaboration is the G-Unit Collection by Rbk line of shoes. This footwear collection debuts with a very limited distribution in the autumn, but will be launched in style in early 2004.


This is not the first time that Reebok has collaborated with a rap star: on 18 April 2003 the brand launched the S Carter Collection by Rbk, the result of a collaboration with rapper Jay-Z, which is enjoying huge success in the United States. In just one weekend, 10,000 pairs of the first model of trainer put into circulation were sold, the Shaun Carter which costs 95 dollars. The new collection dedicated to women’s tennis wear is designed by US designer Diane von Fürstenberg. In 2021, she and CardiB launched a ‘Mommy & Me’ footwear collection inspired by her two-year-old daughter.

Cardi BX Reebok
Cardi BX Reebok

Acquisition by Adidas

Reebok International Ltd. had around 6,000 employees worldwide when Adidas bought the brand in 2006 for 3.8 billion euros. Thanks to this merger, Adidas will gain a good share of the US market, which until now had been an almost exclusive monopoly of Nike.

However, it was subsequently valued at less than $ 1 billion. With the acquisition, Paul Harrington was appointed as brand director in 2006, replacing Paul Fireman. Reebok officially changed from a traditional sports brand to a fitness-focused brand.

It was 2010 when Massimo Carnelli – who had worked for Adidas from 1996 to 2007 – was appointed Reebok’s brand director for Italy. Following year, he began working with CossFit, for whom he sponsored the CrossFit Games (later to become the Reebok CrossFit Games).

In 2011, Reebok was accused of false advertising. Reebok International will pay a sum of $ 25 million to reimburse consumers who were misled by the advertising of its EasyTone and RunTone toning shoes. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled that these two models of footwear increase the tone of the buttocks by 28% and the tone of the thighs and calves by 11% compared to other sports shoes, without any supporting evidence.

easytone commercial break
Easytone commercial break

In an attempt at re-branding, in 2013 the logo became a red delta, symbolizing the three pillars of positive mental, physical and social self-change.

The Group appoints Karen Reuther as creative director of the brand in 2018. After twelve years at Nike, the designer takes over from Thomas Steinbruck who had left the company after just eighteen months of service.


Reebok announced the birth of Cotton & Corn, a new green initiative that will lead to the launch of an entirely sustainable line of shoes in 2017. The aim of the project, led by the Reebok Future team, is to create products made from materials of natural origin. This project includes shoes with uppers in organic cotton and a sole made from a material derived from non-food corn. In addition, the brand produces a wide range of organic trainers that at the end of their life cycle can become “fertilizer for new shoes”, thus avoiding waste of materials and resources.

Organic sneakers
Organic sneakers

The year 2020

While, 21st century saw the brand’s rise in eastern markets. In 2019, Reebok opened Shanghai Fashion Week with its first ever see-now-buy-now show. The show was held in the famous Taipinghu Xintiandi district and featured a performance by American rapper Future and Chinese singer and actor William Chan. Furthermore, which focused particular on the main trends of the brand’s autumn-winter 2019/20 collection

In 2020, Reebok reported a drop in sales of more than 19%, to € 1.4 billion, a far cry from the € 3 billion in sales the brand was making at the time of its move to Adidas. Adidas is therefore aiming to sell Reebok on the basis of an EBITDA of more than € 200 million by 2025, with annual sales growth forecast at + 10%.

At the same time, after the dismissal of Paul Gaudio, the Haitian-American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, designer of Pyer Moss, was called to the management.

Kerby Jean Raymond
Kerby Jean Raymond

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