Brooks Company – A Brand Case Study

If you’re a runner, you understand the importance of the best shoes; Brooks Company is one of the best in the footwear industry.

The shoe you wear is an excellent determinant of your speed, comfort, endurance, and success. While many brands specialize in running shoes these days, only a few offer top quality. One of the top brands in the footwear market is Brooks Company. Whether you’re just starting a running career or looking for a brand that offers quality sneakers to replace your existing shoe, you should consider Brooks. Knowing their history is one of the best ways to know if they’re the right brand for you. In this article, we’ll explore the company’s early beginning and its growth over the decade.

The Brooks Company Origin

Brooks was founded in 1914 and started as a business manufacturing ice skates and sports shoes. However, the company didn’t distinguish itself until six decades later when it became a manufacturer of running shoes. Jogging took over the United States in the 1970s, and with that came the popularity of Brooks Company. It all began with the Vantage brand, and the company has risen to dizzying heights since then. The brand soon secured a significant share in the increased profits and revenue. Like Nike, Brooks became a favorite amongst running fans who embraced the sport worldwide. By the late 70s, Brooks was one of the top running shoe brands in the US. 

Under the enthusiasm from the running craze, Brooks began to extend its product lines. The company expanded into other athletic footwear markets like aerobics, basketball, and baseball. As the company diversified, it began seeking celebrity endorsements from leading, recognized professional athletes. The company noticed that its top rival Nike was signing big-name athletes, and Brooks followed suit. For example, the company signed a football quarterback Dan Marino, a basketball star. 

Problems hit the brand when it began to slacken, and the company could no longer operate effectively. Due to the financial difficulties the company was facing, it sought out cheaper materials for its footwear. It also slashed prices and distributed most of its products to deep discount chains when the shoe was now available for as low as $20. Due to this, Brooks Company lost its credibility, and the production of inferior products tarnished its image. By early 1993, its parent company, Wolverine World Wide, was ready to let go of the company and sell it.

New Ownership of the Brooks Company

The new company that owned Brooks was Rokke Group, a private Norwegian Group with interests in sporting goods, real estate, shipping, and more. The company purchased Brooks for $21 million, and the deal included acquiring its worldwide licensing and distribution network. After the acquisition, the parent company renamed the company Brooks Sports and relocated to Seattle. The company’s international headquarter in Michigan and the domestic headquarter in Pennsylvania were combined in Bothell, Washington. In addition, the company’s finance and accounting office was moved to Michigan, while its sourcing office moved to Taiwan. At this time, Brooks was generating around $100 million annually in worldwide sales. 

Sales in the United States were at $25 million yearly, and the eight years of consecutive losses in the company were due to the deteriorating strength of the brand’s name. Brooks Company was one of the top three brands, but it was now the 25th place in the company. Therefore, it was clear that significant changes were necessary. However, the company didn’t pay attention to reforms in 1993 as it focused on reorganization and consolidation. In addition, the company seemed to be facing management issues until the company hired a new president. 

Rokke Group’s CEO, Bjorn Gielsten, hired Helen Rockey as the company’s new president. Rockey had an impressive record and was a former special sales manager and General manager at Nike. In 1994, Rockey officially became the president of Brooks, becoming the first female to head the athletic shoe company.

Rockey’s Impact on the Brooks Company

Once Rockey became the president of Books, she made significant changes in the company. Rockey began by announcing her plans to increase the company’s profits and sales by 25% within 3-5 years. Rather than restructure the company, Rockey focused on upgrading Brooks’s products. This strategy focused on the company’s best running shoes; these shoes were the core of the company’s success in the 70s, and Rockey was determined to make it so again. She discontinued other categories in the company, eliminating the company’s attempt to become like Nike. With a focus on the running shoe market, Rockey began redesigning Brooks’ footwear to eradicate the company’s history of selling its products at Kmart.

Rockey successfully delivered ‘The Truth’ to retailers. It was a basic shoe, and it sold for $109. Rockey began to visit retail establishments in the US and concentrated on the specialty running stores that served as the strongest distribution channels for the company. Rockey made clear three top objectives to restore confidence in Brooks Company that restored the retailers’ confidence in Brooks brand. Part of Rockey’s strategy was getting rid of celebrity endorsement deals and sponsoring athletes. She began to build a list of 200 runers and grouped them into four sponsorship categories. The sponsorship deals only covered free gear and didn’t involve cash payment. It also required the athletes to make promotional appearances at various retail stores and conduct running clinics. 

The new changes by Rockey created a focused and leaner Brooks Company. This helped restore profitability within the first year of Rockey’s service as president and placed the company on a firm footing. 

Brooks Company History – The Late 1990s 

Although the goal was to previously strip the company down and focus on Rockey’s main objectives, the profitability allowed Rockey to assume a more aggressive stance. Her influence wasn’t evident until after the Brooks Company made its way out of the mid-1990s and began creating a distribution base for its products. Sales went up in the late 1990s, and once the store was fully established in specialty running stores, Rockey redirected its focus to regional sporting goods and departmental stores. The company experienced quick success in this category as top departmental stores like Nordstrom carried the company’s shoes in 30 of its locations. With the number of stores stocking up on Brooks footwear increasing, sales were also getting higher. In addition, sales were higher in the US, where the company had previously incurred significant damage. 

With a 48% increase in domestic sales in 1996, Rockey moved on to the next part of her plan. The company announced in mid-1996 that it was entering the apparel business. Brooks company introduced a line of technical running and fitness apparel for all demographics in 1997. This significantly added a revenue stream to Brooks. There was a 29% increase in apparel sales for Brooks in 1998, making the apparel business account for 15% of total sales from the company at the end of the decade. 

Despite the success of Brooks Company, its parent company decided to cut ties with the footwear company. It sold its controlling interest to Stamford, Connecticut Venture Capital firm for $40 million. The company retained a 20% stake and sold 60% to J.H Whitney. Sales from specialty running stores were up by 84%, which affected the company’s success even further. In 1999, Rockey announced she was leaving the company to join Just for Feet as president and CEO. Despite the change in leadership, Brook had a consistent financial performance and was prepared for the decade ahead. The Rockey Era had resurrected the company. However, there was hope that the new leadership tenure would ensure the company’s further success.

The Best Brooks Company Shoes

Brooks’s motto is ‘run happy,’ which shows that there’s no wrong or right way to run. Over the years, brooks have released several iconic running shoes. However, for a runner to pick the best shoe, they need to know the best options available. That’s why we’ve reviewed the best Brooks running shoes you can find below.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22

This is one of the legendary boots from Brooks. It is the best stability shoe you can find; it is soft and comfortable and allows you to run mile after mile easily. The company built this running shoe with its GuideRails support system. This shifts focus to the athlete’s knees to prevent excess pronation and ensure a comfortable run. In addition, the shoe offers a buttery ride because of its DNA Loft foam features and provides an easy transition from heel to toe.

The Adrenaline GTS 22 comes covered in a breathable mesh upper for a roomy fit. It also changed its 3D print technology to ensure even more comfort for the wearer.

Brooks Glycerin 19

This is a cushioned running sneakers that don’t allow you just quit. It also comes with the Brooks’ Guide Rail System that helps efficiently guide your foot towards the shoe’s middle. It also provides crucial support for pronators. The Glycerin 19 comes with DNA loft foam for a comfortable and plushy feeling. It is quite light and will make you feel like you’re running on the clouds.

Brooks Launch 9

This isn’t just affordable; it is a speeding running shoe built using the BioMoGo DNA midsole. This feature added more foam to the shoe to make it more responsive and softer. This also works to help the runner pick up the pace easily, and the springy rubber beneath the forefoot will propel you forward. In addition, the designers ensured breathability within this shoe and that it was lightweight by using a Creel Wrap upper. This material also helps to keep the wearer cool in warm weather. This comfortable and lightweight shoe is an excellent choice if you want to head out for some miles. 

Brooks Levitate 5

An energetic and smooth option for running long distances is the Brooks Levitate 5. This shoe allows you to run effortlessly with a DNA AMP cushioning that ensures a responsive feel. If you’re worried about the right fit, this running shoe has two upper options. You can opt for the Levitate StealthFit 5 or the Levitate 5. The Levitate 5 has a structured upper and a higher volume fit.

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On the other hand, the Levitate StealthFit 5 is a bootie-like knit upper that features an attached tongue. As a result, it is lighter, more flexible, and more breathable. However, it offers a narrower fit. 

Final Thoughts

Although the focus on running paid off for Brooks company, it is still adapting to the footwear industry. There’s been a shift to online shopping, which might be quite a challenge for Brooks partner stores. However, the company’s history is one of resurgence from a failing history. The company also has some of the best running shoes in the industry. A close look would help you find the best running shoes that fit your style and preference. 

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Brooks Company – A Brand Case Study If you’re a runner, you understand the importance of the best shoes; Brooks Company is one of the best in the footwear industry.
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