Nobody wants Reebok Jeans
I don't think so anyway. They sound stupid. It turns out they look stupid too. I'm not out to insult Reebok or their attempt to penetrate the denim market. Honestly, it seems like a tough sell. I was actually Googling the best oxymoron I could think of between brand and product. I first searched for Nike jeans, but Nike might be too smart for that. I found Nike Golf slacks, yet somehow that didn't seem nearly as funny or awkward. Which brings me to this question: why are Nike pants okay, but Reebok jeans ridiculous?
It was Christmas of 1992. I was 11 years old and desperate for the new shoes dubbed the Bo Jackson's. Except for an 11 year old boy, they weren't just shoes - they were the shoes. In my mind, they were the only shoes that mattered at that point. Brian Crosscup already had them, of course. Brian Crosscup was one smug 11 year old.
Christmas morning arrived and I was feeling confident the cross-trainers would soon be mine. I rifled through present after present without stopping to register the gravity of any one single gift. Because only one mattered. It was that shoebox-sized prize that I spied near my mom's foot. You know how you will eat all the salad even though you have a slice of greasy pepperoni pizza patiently waiting? That was my philosophy.
"Addy, you have another one over here," my mother attempted to say casually.
"Oh, yeah?" I responded coyly.
I was within minutes of reaching my potential as a two-sport athlete just like Bo. I imagined I might even be better than him. Bo only plays football and baseball, but I'm good at like, 5 or 9 sports I conservatively estimated. Once I velcro-strap these bad boys to my feet even Bo doesn't know where I'll land.
I unwrapped the box with a healthy certainty that I was about to be the happiest white kid in New Hampshire, and that's a wicked happy white kid. Except that didn't come. Instead, I was... confused. No, no, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed at the thought that Brian Crosscup may get a glimpse at what I had just unearthed. I was legitimately concerned that someone may look through our window and see me with these... things? These Champion ...shoes? Does Champion even make shoes? Did my mom make these?
I may have cried. OK, I know I cried. Malala Yousafzai I am not.
I imagine my face expressed a combination both of betrayal and befuddlement, to which my mom shouted, "You love Champion!"
It was 1992 and nothing verified your cool credibility more than a solid-colored Champion sweatshirt. It was the unequivocal champion of middle-school-materialism. If you were in a Champion sweatshirt, you would not be questioned, period. Champion shoes were an entirely different story. I assume, in the name of humanity, you'd be put down. Like Old Yeller, there was nothing you could do for a friend sporting Champion shoes. Even my dad wouldn't have been caught in these.
Like Champion shoes, Reebok jeans or Sketchers anything, some brands don't work in certain product sectors. And, the brands that successfully made that transition had a plan. I recall the first time I saw Nike soccer shoes and vowed to never wear such a silly thing. 20 years later, this article from Bloomberg states they're in a virtual dead heat with Adidas for the number one soccer brand in the world. The article is from 2014, but it's the best one I could find.
It's all about a smart and disciplined plan. The Harvard Business Review wrote an article titled, Growth Outside the Core about Nike's transition to golf.
"...companies like Nike consistently, profitably outgrow their rivals by developing a formula for expanding those boundaries in predictable, repeatable ways. The average company succeeds only 25% of the time in launching new initiatives," states the article.
It is, of course, vastly more complicated than that. Still, I'm not writing this blog to talk about how vastly complicated things are; that's no fun.
As for the 1992 Champion shoes? They never made it out of the box. But, as I reflect on this story I hope my parents taught me a lesson in being grateful. I know I taught them one on the fundamentals of a brand's market reach. Brands are funny; we are funny. The amount of stock we put in a brand seems ludicrous. Still, how can one name be the pinnacle of cool in one arena, and then a dud not fit for a dad, in another?
I have a sudden urge to search for Champion sweatshirts. They are still cool.
It seems like Champion is still holding out hope for their shoes–that's a shame. Check out the New Randy's. Seriously, that's the name. At least someone has a good sense of humor.