Brooks running shoe. Picture: Pixabay
Even though Brooks was founded in 1914, it would be 60 years before they would become known as a running shoe manufacturer, a leap from their original ice skates and cleated sports shoes lines.
It wasn’t until the 70s, when jogging became a popular hobby in the U.S. that their signature brand Vantage soared to become a top athletic footwear company. By the late 70’s, Nike and Brooks were two of the top running shoe brands in the United States, thanks to the popularity of running as a sport and hobby.
Unfortunately, due the poor management of Brooks, the company was very close to insolvency. It was the diversification of their footwear lines and decision to use cheaper materials while selling their products in bargain chains that cost them their credibility in the marketplace.
In 1982, Wolverine World Wide Inc. known for their Hush Puppies, bought Brooks. By 1993 they gave up and sold the company to the Rokke Group, a Norwegian investment group with diversified interests in various industries. It wasn’t until Rokke hired Helen Rockey, a Nike general manager who had a stellar reputation for increasing sales, as the president of Brooks that the company finally found its place due to Rockey’s decision to base her plane not on restructuring the company, but re-engineering their products. She brought the company back to profitability within one year.
In 1998, the company sold 60% to J.H. Whitney and 20% to Rockey and 70 other employees of Brooks. In 1999 Rockey left for a position with another company, leaving another executive to become president and CEO of Brooks.
One of the changes that Rockey made to Brooks was to eliminate expensive celebrity endorsements in order to cut costs substantially. Some of the previous endorsements were by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 andquarterback Dan Marino in 1984.
Now, Brooks sponsors athletes that they call Brook’s Beasts, as opposed to paying out high sums of money to actors, models, or other high profile celebrities. Sponsorships are a common goodwill method that Brooks uses to gain advertising. They sponsor the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project and up until 2010 they provided the uniforms for the Chili National football team. This deal went south when Puma signed a deal with the Chilean Football Federation until 2015.
Where is the Company Headed?
Brooks was sold again in 2004 to the Russell Corporation and then to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Investment Fund in 2006. Now, the Bothell, Washington based Brooks Sports, Inc. is one of the few athletic apparel companies of their size still operating in the U.S. as opposed to overseas.
Brooks hasn’t missed out on the environmental movement either, releasing a new design called The Brooks Green Silence, made with a biodegradable midsole material.
It seems that the lessons learned throughout the long history of Brooks have been carried through from the time of Helen Rockey, including sound business decisions, attention to customer desires, building and keeping credibility, and maximizing advertising dollars through sponsorships rather than celebrity endorsements.
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