by Gianluca Errico MONACO. A short business history of the most iconic running shoes in the occasion of the Monaco Run 2018 countdown: from the first shoes by hand made by Foster in 1895 for top runner to the Converse centenary, to the Adidas vs/Puma battle, to Philip Knight’s book “Shoe Dog”, a memoir by the creator of Nike. Whereas the Monaco Run Riviera Classic is in stand by for security reasons, the next edition of the 10Km of Monte-Carlo has been confirmed. The start will be given at 09.30 am on Saturday, March 11th 2018 at the Quai Albert 1er, near the harbor of Monaco, and next to the train station. The course – fully protected and closed to car circulation- will go along the roads of the Principality. The highest point being at only 15 mt. on the Bd. of Larvotto, the course is really fast, and exactly measured. The finish will be judged on the Quai Albert 1er in the center of the Principality next to the access to the train station, with a view on the super yachts of the Hercule Harbour.
REEBOOK – The elegant brand “made in Great Britain”
1895 – Joseph William Foster founded J.W. Foster and Sons Limited in Bolton, Lancashire; he made shoes by hand for top runners and developed international clientele of distinguished athletes (i.e. 1924 Summer Games celebrated in film “Chariots of Fire”); 1958 – Two grandsons left the family business and started rival company, Reebok (named for African gazelle); 1979 – Paul Fireman, partner in outdoor sporting goods distributorship, spotted Reebok shoes at international trade show; he negotiated for North American distribution license, and introduced three running shoes in U.S. ($60, most expensive running shoes on market); 1981 – Reebok’s sales exceeded $1.5 million; 1984 – acquired by group of investors led by R. Stephen Rubin of Pentland Industries and Paul Fireman. January 2006 – acquired by Adidas-Salomon in $3.8 billion transaction.
NEW BALANCE – The running shoes’ niche market in Boston
1906 – William J. Riley, British emigrant, founded the New Balance Arch Support Company, manufacturing arch supports and other accessories designed to improve shoe fit in the Boston area. His first product, a flexible arch support, was designed with three support points to provide greater balance and comfort in the shoe. It is believed that Riley came up with the name “New Balance” by observing chickens in his yard and demonstrated the way his arch supports worked by keeping a chicken foot on his office desk. He explained to customers that the chicken’s three-pronged foot resulted in perfect balance; 1927-Riley hired Arthur Hall to be a salesman. 1934 – Hall became a business partner and found his niche by marketing to people whose jobs required them to spend a lot of time standing. 1956 –Hall sold the business to his daughter Eleanor and her husband Paul Kidd. 1960 – Eleanor and Paul Kidd designed and manufactured the “Trackster”, the world’s first running shoe made made with a ripple sole. 1972 – current chairman Jim Davis bought the company on the day of the Boston Marathon. 1978 – Jim with his wife Anne focused on building a distinct culture for New Balance employees and customers. Their timing was perfect, as the Boston area became a center for the running boom that struck the U.S. in the 1970s. Their product line expanded and sales grew rapidly. The company prospered, and the Davises looked to expand New Balance into a global company. In February 2015, the company announced its entry into the global association football market.
CONVERSE – ALL STAR – The iconic America shoe
1908 – Marquis Mills Converse started Converse Rubber Shoe Company in Malden, MA; provided winterized rubber soled footwear for men, women, children. At first the company only made galoshes and other work related rubber shoes on a seasonal basis. 1910 – produced 4,000 pairs of shoes daily. 1915 – diversified into tires. 1917 – created vulcanized rubber, canvas “All Star” shoe, first sneaker designed for basketball (put rubber ankle reinforcement patch on outside of sneaker with “CONVERSE STAR” on it – first brand-name logo on athletic wear). The Converse All-Star Was Originally Designed for Soccer and Netball. The first athletic shoe designed just for basketball came from Spalding (yes, the people who make basketballs) so before Converse came along it was Spalding or nothing. Converse decided it was more efficient to keep their work force employed year round, and began making athletic shoes.
The “Chuck” Story: with the help of a guy named Charles Taylor, Converse would market their shoes to a whole new market that would change their company forever. In 1921 it happened that an American basketball player Charles “Chuck” Taylor joined a basketball team sponsored by the Converse Company called The Converse All Stars. Taylor walked into the Converse sales offices in Chicago, professed his love for the All Stars and pitched an idea. What if their was a leather patch on the shoe that could help protect basketball players ankles? Marquis loved the idea and it still remains today. 1923 – Chuck Taylor’s name was added to the shoe. After graduation Chuck Taylor was offered a job as a traveling shoe salesman for Converse. He was very successful at going from town to town selling All Stars to high school and college basketball teams. Converse rewarded him with putting his name on the shoe’s patch.
1932 – Chuck Taylors got the shoes ventilation eyelets. Before that your feet were just all stuffy and sweaty. 1936 – The first white Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars model was introduced at the 1936 Olympics. The Team USA worn the shoes during the first ever Olympic basketball game. 1949 – 1950s The classic black and white high top was introduced in 1949 and the low top oxfords weren’t introduced until the 1950s. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star has gone virtually unchanged since 1949. It’s gone from the world’s most prevalent basketball sneaker to a lifestyle staple. It remains beloved both for its history and its simplicity. 1960s – By 1966, Converse had an 80 percent share of the US Sneaker Market. September 3, 2003 – Converse is acquired by Nike for approximately $305 million.
ADIDAS and PUMA – The unbelievable battle of two brothers
1920 – Adolf (Adi) Dassler (20) made his first shoes, produced from canvas; then he invented spiked shoes for track and field. 1928 – athletes wore special shoes for first time at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, mid 1930s – Dassler made 30 different shoes for eleven sports, with a workforce of almost 100 employees; he became the world’s leading sports shoe manufacturer; 1936 – Jesse Owens won four gold medals in Berlin Olympics, he wore dark Dassler spikes. The Dassler brothers split the company in two in 1948, dividing the assets and the employees between themselves. Adi named his company “Adidas,” a combination of his first and last names. Rudi attempted the same by first naming his company “Ruda” but eventually changed it to the more athletic sounding “Puma.” The two built competing factories on opposite sides of the river Aurach and quickly became responsible for much of Herzogenaurach’s economy, with nearly everyone working for one company or the other. It wasn’t until 2009 when employees of both companies symbolized the end of six decades of feuding by playing a friendly soccer match. By then, the Dassler brothers had both died, within four years of each other. 1948 – Rudolf Dassler introduced PUMA Atom, PUMA’s first football shoe. August 18, 1949 – Adi Dassler registered his Company as “ADIDAS AG” 1959 – Rudolf’s company changed to limited partnership status, named “PUMA-Sportschuhfabriken Rudolf Dassler KG”; October 19, 1965 – Rudolf registered “PUMA” trademark (sport shoes); 1968 – PUMA is the first manufacturer to offer sports shoes with Velcro fasteners;1986 – PUMA limited partnership transformed into a stock corporation; 1993 – Proventus/Aritmos B.V. became majority shareholder of PUMA AG Rudolf Dassler Sport. September 2017 ADIDAS’ current worth is $37.2 billion. In 2016, Puma’s net worth was estimated to be around $4 billion.
1949 – Kihachiro Onitsuka started Onitsuka Co., Ltd., athletic footwear company, in Kobe, Japan; he manufactured basketball shoes from his living room before expanding into other lines of sports shoes. 1977 – Merged with GTO Co., Ltd, manufacturer of sports wear and goods, and JELENK Co., Ltd, manufacturer of sports wear, Kihachiro Onitsuka renamed the Company “ASICS” Corporation on belief that best way to create healthy, happy lifestyle is to promote total health and fitness. May 1990 – opened Research Institute of Sports Science. Since Onitsuka Tiger was incorporated in 1949, shoes have been created for football, running, martial arts, basketball, cheerleading, volleyball, cross-training, track and field, wrestling, golf, cricket, fencing, and tennis. The most famous brand of Onitsuka Tiger shoes is the striped Mexico 66 Line. ASICS still sells vintage style Onitsuka Tiger shoes, including the Mexico 66, worldwide. Kihachiro Onitsuka started his company with the hopes of raising postwar youth self-esteem through athletics. Onitsuka remained actively involved with the company up to his death occurred 10 years ago, on October 1st 2007, serving as chairman and experimenting with new designs. While still not in the league of industry giants like Nike and Adidas, Asics net worth is around $3 billion by now.
Philip Knight’s story: in the late 1950s, University of Oregon middle-distance runner Philip Knight was coached by Bill Bowerman, one of the top coaches in the US. Bowerman was also known for experimenting with the design of running shoes to make them lighter and more shock-absorbent. After attending Oregon, Knight continued his studies at Stanford University, where he wrote his MBA thesis on the marketing of athletic shoes. After receiving his degree, Knight travelled to Japan where he contacted Onitsuka Tiger Co. Ltd, and convinced the company that their product had a market in the US. In 1963, Knight received his first shipment of Tiger shoes, and later he and Bowerman invested $500 each to form Blue Ribbon Sports, later known as:
NIKE – The Greek goddess of victory holds on the market right now
1962 – Phil Knight wrote research paper at Stanford Business School, asserted that low-priced, high-performance well-merchandised exports from Japan could replace Germany’s domination of the U.S. athletic shoe industry; 1971 – Portland State graphic design student Carolyn Davidson created Swoosh trademark for a $35 fee; Jeff Johnson, Nike’s first employee, dreamt of Nike, Greek goddess of victory, gave Blue Ribbon Sports the name of its new brand of footwear;
February 19, 1974 – BRS, Inc. (Beaverton, OR) registered “NIKE” trademark first used June 18, 1971 (athletic shoes with spikes and athletic uniforms for use with such shoes); 1978 – company renamed Nike Inc.; July 6, 1982 – BRS, Inc. Corporation (Beaverton, OR) registered “Swoosh” trademark first used June 18, 1971 (footwear); September 3, 2003 – Nike completed the acquisition of Converse, Inc. for approximately $305 million. 2004 – Knight resigned as the CEO of Nike after his son Matthew’s death in a scuba diving accident, but retained the position of chairman of the board. 2016 – Nike’s worth is at $93 billion; 2017- Knight’s charitable contributions top $2 billion.