As quickly as toning rose, however, it crashed back down as regulators said there was little evidence the products worked. In 2011, the US Federal Trade Commission ordered Reebok to pay customers back $25 million for “deceptive advertising.” Other challenges followed. Reebok’s licensing deal with the National Football League ended, and it came to light that Reebok’s management in India had been inflating its sales and profits.

Over the next several years, sales were on a rollercoaster as Reebok tried to find its footing. It grabbed a hold in fitness and activities such as CrossFit, a training program quickly gaining popularity. By early 2015, it had recorded several consecutive quarters of growth. But in the US, it was still playing catch up and losing shelf space at retailers. On earnings calls, Adidas executives admitted the company had been too slow in recognizing fitness as Reebok’s strength and maneuvering the brand accordingly.

Reebok’s stalled efforts to reset its brand in the US

As Reebok emphasized fitness products, it reduced its presence in other categories, such as team sports. It outlined a new strategy where it would go all-in on fitness.

But while sales ticked up slowly in other parts of the world, they continued falling in the US, where Reebok was trying to reset its brand and reduce its reliance on outlet stores. In 2016, with Hainer retiring, Adidas appointed Kasper Rorsted its new CEO. While Adidas thrived on sales of its own classic sneakers, Reebok languished. “For a given period of time, the brand was probably stronger than the products,” Rorsted said on a Nov. 2016 earnings call. “Right now I would argue our products are stronger than the brand.”

A CrossFit athlete takes a rest in front of a Reebok sign
CrossFit athlete Rich Froning Jr. at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Invitational.
Image: Reebok

Investors had become impatient and were asking if it was time to sell Reebok. The brand was losing money.

In 2018, Reebok finally returned to profitability, and sales grew slightly at the end of 2019, including in North America, where the company has been partnering with musicians and fashion labels to appeal to young shoppers.

But if there was any momentum building at Reebok, the pandemic interrupted it. In the nine months through Sept. 30, Reebok’s sales plunged 22% (pdf).

At this point it appears Adidas feels it has done what it can to clean up Reebok and is choosing to sell rather than continue to invest. It intends to provide more details during a presentation on March 10. What Reebok’s future will look like after that remains to be seen.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.