Reebok techno runner

Earlier this year, Reebok Canada adopted a bold new mission statement: to make Reebok-brand running shoes the country's top selling performance sports and fitness brand by 1995.According to one estimate, Reebok's 1992 share of the $330 million branded athletic footware market...

Earlier this year, Reebok Canada adopted a bold new mission statement: to make Reebok-brand running shoes the country’s top selling performance sports and fitness brand by 1995.

According to one estimate, Reebok’s 1992 share of the $330 million branded athletic footware market was between 24% and 24.5%.

Category leader Nike, meanwhile, accounted for about 26% of sales.

A variety of companies, including, adidas, Brooks and Converse, made up balance of the market.

A key element in Reebok’s strategy to dislodge Nike as the market leader is a new running shoe incorporating revolutionary shoe technology.

The Pump Fury, set to begin appearing in retail stores next spring, is a lightweight shoe aimed at the most serious runners. It features an upper body constructed entirely of an inflatable bladder.

This bladder, which serves as the portion of the shoe that holds the shoe to the foot, has no laces. Rather, to secure the shoe to the foot, the bladder is inflated using an attached pump device or with a separate pressurized CO2 cartridge known as the Instapump.

To remove the shoe, one simply deflates the bladder.

The Pump Fury will retail for about $179.99, making it Reebok’s highest priced running shoe. The company carries a range of products starting at $29.99.

Since 1989, Reebok’s flagship shoe has been the Reebok Pump, which featured an inflatable air bladder sewn into part of the shoe upper.

But Tim Sampson, Reebok’s marketing services manager, says the Pump Fury makes use of technological improvements to the bladder system that result – and this is the ultimate test in performance running wear – in a lighter shoe.

According to Reebok, the Pump Fury weighs just over 8 oz., making it 10% to 25% lighter than other high-performance runners on the market.

Reebok product manager Dennis Wilson notes the performance shoe market is driven by technological improvements.

Wilson says that, since taking the market by storm with the Pump system four years ago, Reebok has introduced several product innovations, each designed to create a lighter shoe.

Not only expensive but also garishly colored in a combination of red, white, black and greenish-yellow, the Pump Fury is unlikely to sell in great numbers. It isn’t intended to.

What Reebok wants to gain from the time and money invested in the shoe is bragging rights in a category extremely sensitive to product image.

Thompson says the Pump Fury is a ‘statement shoe to get people to look at it and say `wow, Reebok makes this. Can I afford a shoe like this? No, but what else do they make?”

Thompson says the shoe will be used a vehicle to tell consumers that ‘we have introduced more technology to the market in the last few years than any other shoe company.’

Ted Bigelow, product assistant on purchasing and product management with Nike Canada, disputes Reebok’s claim that the Pump Fury introduces technology that is revolutionary.

Bigelow says all air-based technology is simply derivative of the Nike Air shoe, which features an air-filled heel and has been on the market in various incarnations since the mid-1980s.

Besides, he says, Reebok has been using an inflatable bladder system for five years, ‘so how revolutionary is that.’

Still, Bigelow appears impressed with Reebok’s stated goal of becoming the leading running shoe brand by 1995.

‘It’s definitely a very aggressive stance,’ he says, adding ‘the whole industry has heard about it.’

But Bigelow notes that a shoe company can talk all it wants: ‘The people who are running are in the end the final deciders. They decide what works, what is worth the money and what lasts,’ he says.

For its part, Nike launched a new shoe this spring called the Nike Air Max. A descendant of the Nike Air, the Air Max has a visible air bag in the shoe’s heel.