German sporting goods titan Adidas-Salomon is to undertake a major brand repositioning of Reebok, the formerly British footwear and sportswear company it acquired earlier this year [WAMN: 26-Jan-06].

Originally UK-based and now headquartered in Canton, Massachusetts, Reebok's marketing emphasis changed in recent years from sports performance to street-cred fashion. Adidas, however, plans to reverse that trend. Reebok is now likely to drop or play down the endorsement deals it signed with rappers like Jay-Z and 50 Cent.

Says Adidas ceo Herbert Hainer: "There is no doubt that we will position Reebok back more to a performance brand than it has been over the last two to three years. Reebok was one of the first to bring a lot of technology into the market."

But the two brands will retain their discrete identities, Hainer promises: "We will keep the two brands separate, because we believe both have their own identity, heritage and consumer base."

Adidas America president Rob Langstaff believes that a reoriented Reebok will trigger "sibling rivalry". Says he: "We want to compete at the marketplace ... and both of us will become better as a result."

But athletic footwear sales in the US market appear to be nearing a plateau, achieving torpid sales growth of just 2.8% in 2005, according to the NPD Group.

Hainer believes the stateside sales challenge can be successfully met by a combination of fashion and science: "Innovative, technologically driven product really can make a difference in the US market. If you bring new technology, new innovative product to the market, the consumer is ready to spend the money."

Meantime Adidas/Reebok are limbering-up for the forthcoming battle with US global market leader Nike as the planet prepares for the quadrennial sales bonanza of the soccer World Cup.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff