Beyond a Brand, Reebok is an Emotion

We at ABFRL, present stories excerpted from our internal newsletter ‘In Touch’, where we celebrate stories of our people and their contributions.

ABFRL is strengthening its foothold in the fast-growing sportswear market and Reebok is a welcome and important addition to the family. A pioneer in the global sporting goods industry, Reebok is more than just a brand – it is a legacy. To learn more about it and its renewed vision in India, we sat down with Team Reebok — the pulse of the brand.

On a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon of April 2, 2011, Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium was a sight to behold. A sea of blue in different hues was flowing in the stadium with flags of India and Sri Lanka. It was no ordinary occasion; it was yet another day of reckoning for a cricket-crazy nation that bled blue. Being inches away from lifting the 2003 World Cup in Africa, India had another shot at the championship, this time on Indian soil. A packed stadium with 35,000+ people was buzzing with excitement, so much that the toss had to be done twice as the umpire couldn’t hear the call. By evening, the stage was set: 275 runs and the cup would be ours! At the end of the day, the ecstatic commentator couldn’t contain his emotions as he announced, “A magnificent strike into the crowd and India lifts the World Cup after 28 years!” The cameras zoomed in on Captain Cool in a now-iconic shot: drenched in glorious victory, lifting his match winning Reebok bat.

This Reebok bat was so iconic that 10 years later, in 2021, it was auctioned for a record amount of £100,000 and entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive bat in the world.

A brand created history along with Team India and Captain Cool, by being there at the right place at the right time. In India, this is just one of the many feathers that Reebok has added to its hat.

On his association with Reebok, cricketer Suryakumar Yadav said, “I’m excited to partner with Reebok, a brand that resonates with my outlook on sports and fitness. I believe an individual evolves best when faced with challenges. Reebok’s new campaign perfectly depicts my unconventional approach towards the game. I look forward to inspiring a wave of energy and igniting a spark of ‘I am the New’ philosophy amongst the youth of the country.”

Sharing her excitement about this association with Reebok, actor Taapsee Pannu commented, “It is so exciting to be associated with a brand like Reebok that enables you to push your boundaries, and most importantly, to be yourself. It might be easy to follow the crowd, but it takes an immense amount of courage to pave your own path, and Reebok’s new campaign truly encourages this ideology. The ‘I am the New’ campaign perfectly depicts our shared belief in breaking barriers and creating your own unique identity, be it in movies or real life. I’m proud to be a part of this movement and look forward to a thrilling journey with the brand.”

The Brand Story

The philosophy of Reebok is to inspire human movement. With the core belief that Life is not a Spectator Sport, every member in the team makes it a point to include fitness in their lifestyle. While everyone has their own way of staying fit, it is mandatory for everyone in the team to play at least one sport.

A Team with Clear Fitness Goals

• Vishak Kumar (CEO, MFL & Whole-time Director, ABFRL) is an athlete who inspires the team with his dedication towards fitness.

• Manoj Juneja (Brand COO, Reebok) starts his morning with an 8 km walk every day and enjoys a game of Tennis over weekends

• Randhir Kumar (Head, Product & Design) is an avid runner. He has been running every day for the past 2,600 days (14,000+ kms). His pursuit of fitness is unending.

• Prashant Singh (Head of Marketing) is a former cricketer and runs to stay fit.

• Saurav Gupta (Planning Head), plays badminton 2-3 times a week.

• Atul Aggarwal (Sales Head), is an avid cricket lover

• Nitin Malhotra (Sourcing Head), tries to pack in a session of yoga in the morning and ensures a 5km walk in the evening

• Kumar Harshit (AVP, Retail Operations), indulges in a game of Squash

• Piyush Agarwal (DGM, Buying & & Merchandising), enjoys gymming and a game of cricket

Re-booting Team Dynamics

The team has the right mix of experience and enthusiasm. Manoj, Prashant, Nitin and the other senior folks are the “OGs” of the team. Then there are “knights” like Randhir, Atul, Piyush, Harshit, and Saurav, who are the power builders of the brand. The young guns, including the striders, work with a lot of passion and enthusiasm.

Now part of Madura Fashion & Lifestyle (MFL – ABFRL’ division that manages Reebok’s operations in India), team Reebok has relocated from Delhi to Bangalore. There’s been a lot of shifts as the brand gears up for a new stint.

In Bangalore, the team’s initial focus is setting up shop and getting the business going. The next leg of the new journey would be to create a dedicated space that celebrates the brand in all its glory. Manoj explains, “We will always celebrate the brand. We want to be a part of an exciting workplace that we love. If we don’t do it, then how do we create amazing products that consumers want?” Such enthusiasm, backed by an empowering vision, translates to products that Reebok takes pride in.

Re-igniting Passion

The team is all geared up to innovate and explore verticals and move towards disruptive innovations that can bring Reebok to its pinnacle. All this hint at a lot of global and local learnings.

Manoj elaborates, “Our aim is to leverage Reebok’s legacy and take the brand’s product innovation to create a new benchmark in the industry. Globally, the team has put forth innovative product lines in the categories of Running, Training and Walking, considering the top products among competitive brands. The new Floatride, DMX, and Nano will be key authenticators for the brand in the performance segment. In India, the brand has created some exciting technical products in footwear and apparel at relevant price points to offer innovation to every kind of consumer. The introduction of new product categories in cricket, badminton, tennis and technologies such as Liquijet, SpaceFoam, AstroFoam+, and FLride Fly are set to be game changers for the brand.”

How does this translate to a wholesome employee experience? “Shaping employee experiences through our passion for sports, brand will attract those whose values align, who possess an intuitive understanding of the brand, and who have an ability to interpret it at every customer touchpoint. Reebok gave me the opportunity to dream big and wings to fly. I will offer the same to my teammates,” says Randy.

Re-defining Inspiration for Sports

Reebok is a brand that inspires human movement. Manoj says, “Going forward, you will see Reebok being a key driving force behind Fitness and Sports in India. Running and walking, which are extremely significant to Indians, will be an important driver, with training being our differentiator. We are geared up to bring back the unique identity Reebok had, and will be venturing back into the sports performance segment that will be our authenticator. There is further plan to re-imagine Reebok Classics as our amplifier, where we tap into the young generation. With each category having a specific role to play, we will tap into a wider market while focusing on premium, mid-price point and value consumers markets. With every category we are looking to enter, the focus is on being the brand of choice.”

Prashant explains further, “For any sports or performance wear brand, innovation is key. Authentic Brands Group (Reebok’s Global Licensor) and ABFRL have a history of creating iconic innovations. Lifestyle shoes have a progression from performance to sports to fashion. For Instance, a Reebok Pump is an iconic innovation but today it is a lifestyle shoe. It was launched as a performance basketball shoe in nineties. So, when you sell a sneaker, it’s not just about good-looking shoes, it’s about the culture and legacy associated with it. That’s more important. India is catching up with Europe and North America in terms of style and performance. The sneaker-crazy culture is sneaking in fast across age groups, not only youngsters, but also people in their thirties and forties are styling up with white shoes.”

Re-building for a Glorious Future

Back in 2010, Reebok established itself as the biggest sports brand in the country with leading market share. “Our aim at Reebok is to rebuild sports marketing through ‘heartbeat sports’, which will authenticate the brand, ensure high brand visibility and leverage athlete fitness and sport to connect with consumers,” says Manoj, talking about the brand’s reimagined vision.

Prashant adds, “This comes out strong with our new brand ambassadors, Taapsee Pannu and SuryaKumar Yadav who have been consistently inspiring people to take up sports. Besides this, watch out for the Reebok Running Squad which will soon be active and support the running communities in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune.” he says before signing off.

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