The saying has long gone, “History is written by the victors,” but Todd Krinsky and Nick Woodhouse make a strong case for a revision: Those who know their story and care enough to tell it are the ones able to do so.
Now at the helm of Reebok and Authentic Brands Group (ABG), respectively, both industry veterans are ready to get the century-old heritage brand back in the graces of consumers across the world. But Krinsky and Woodhouse aren’t planning on doing so with traditional corporate spiel. Instead, they’re going about things in true Reebok fashion.
“I think there’s a reputation or history of Reebok being a little bit irreverent,” said Krinsky in an exclusive interview with Sneaker News. “I think we’re going to bring that with us to have a different voice in the market.”
Appointed Chief Executive Officer of the originally-English brand in September of this year, Krinsky has been with Reebok since 1992. Having started as an intern delivering mail, Krinsky joined the Massachusetts-headquartered company at an exciting time. Throughout the ’90s, Reebok enjoyed massive fanfare over its Pump lineup of products thanks to Michael Chang, Dee Brown, and other athletes at the top of their games. Silhouettes like the Instapump Fury and Question Mid were also developed during the first handful of year’s of Krinsky’s time with the brand.
Let Reebok be Reebok.
New leadership’s motto.
And while the Ithaca College-graduate was fortunate enough to look at computer aided design prototypes and be privy to information before most people thanks to his gig at Reebok’s HQ, some of his fondest memories from his earliest times with the brand are complemented by his time as a sales associate at Foot Locker. “Of all the things that I’ve done–and I’ve lived overseas and have had all these other jobs at Reebok–one of the most fulfilling things and best memories is still working retail,” Krinsky said.
Woodhouse agreed, having worked at Forzani’s Locker Room in Canada throughout his teenage years and early adulthood. “Yes I was enamored with footwear, but it was more this, this relationship between people and their shoes. ‘Do you pronate or do you supernate?’ were the only questions you would ask someone shopping for shoes.”
As two individuals who’ve been occupied with footwear for the majority of their lives, Krinsky and Woodhouse lit up when speaking about dual-density EVA midsoles, traction technology, and metatarsal bones.
“I think it should be a pre-requisite for anybody who comes into the industry to work a floor whether you’ve done it before or not because that’s where the energy is–you talk to the consumers, see what motivates them,” Krinsky shared. “[T]o this day–I know Nick does this too–but whenever we’re anywhere, first thing we do is hit a store and just talk to associates; you get so much knowledge out of a kid who’s just working retail all day.”
Krinsky’s original employee ID Reebok
G-Unit, November 2004 Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images
Allen Iverson Reebok
The “mailroom-to-executive” story isn’t commonplace in the world of business, but in Reebok’s situation, it made perfect sense.
Over the last 30 years, Krinsky has had a hand in everything from pitching LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to leading Reebok’s Global Sports Marketing Division, the team responsible for signing Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Pharrell Williams to successful sneaker deals in the early 2000s. Lucrative, long-term partnerships between entertainers and influential figures and sportswear companies are standard practice nowadays, but Krinsky and Reebok were ahead of the competition.
As the company looks to tackle 2023 under new leadership, Krinsky and team are poised to tap into Reebok’s D.N.A. in more ways than one. “[O]ur own voice…has always been really embracing the cultural side of [things]. I don’t think there are many brands that’ve done it better than us,” Krinsky expressed when asked about Reebok’s future in performance basketball. Having had a hand in Allen Iverson’s signing in the spring of ’96, Krinsky understands his company’s differentiating factor from the competition.
“Our motto–Todd and I–is, ‘Let Reebok be Reebok,’” Woodhouse added.
While Woodhouse’s words may seem redundant, they serve as reassurance in the aftermath of adidas’ ownership of the brand. The German sportswear behemoth purchased Reebok for $3.8 billion in 2006, and sold it to ABG for $2.5 billion in August of this year. As President and Chief Marketing Officer of Reebok’s new parent company, Woodhouse is committed to the sportswear institution’s success.
We need to make sure that Reebok…goes back into the pantheon of greats.
“[W]e have this unique space of living at the intersection of fashion and performance, and every major moment in sneaker history, we’ve had an answer to it or a part to play in it. Every single one, in every single category, whether its track spikes, basketball shoes, running shoes, or anything, right? That, to me, is the unique space that Reebok occupies. And it’s a super brand–there are three super brands in footwear…that sit at this intersection of amazing moments in pop culture, amazing moments in fashion, amazing moments in performance. And that’s what we’re going to continue to expand on.”
Neither Krinsky nor Woodhouse confirmed or denied the Three Stripes prioritizing its product over Reebok’s, but it’d be foolish to not suspect that adidas, over the course of 16 years, faced the business decision of barring Reebok shelf space if it meant dominating certain segments of the market.
“Imagine having one of the greatest sportswear brands in the world that’s been kind of contained for a really long period of time, and all of a sudden it’s unleashed. We’re driving 100 miles an hour now; we have an untapped archive…I think we have the second-best archive in the industry,” Krinsky asserted.
Maison Margiela Tabi Club C Reebok
Maison Margiela Tabi Club C Reebok
The Eames Office x Reebok Reebok
The Eames Office x Reebok Reebok
Power Rangers x Reebok Reebok
Street Fighter x Reebok Reebok
Woodhouse echoed a similar sentiment, positing that Reebok’s “single biggest issue for the past four or five years” had been lack of shelf space. ABG, however, has signed several deals with big retailers like JD Group and Foot Locker, moves that will surely see silhouettes like the Club C rival the Stan Smith in ways it might’ve not under previous ownership. A partnership with New Guard’s Group also promises the brand an increased presence in Europe, especially within the world of luxury collaborations.
Since 2020, the brand’s partnership with Maison Margiela has blended sport and high fashion more consistently than most of the competition. Tabi versions of the Instapump Fury and Classic Leather have spoken to the irreverence inherent to both companies, but outside of a niche audience, these offerings have been largely criticized for their high price points. (A standard Classic Leather currently sells on reebok.com for $80, whereas Maison Margiela’s take hit retail for $350.)
There aren’t any plans to severe ties with the Italian fashion house, but Krinsky and Woodhouse were clear on reevaluating the sheer number of collaborations Reebok produces per year. The brand will continue forming part of important pop culture moments, but rich storytelling will be the highlight of its collaborations moving forward. The Eames Office is a perfect example of the type of partner Reebok wants to associate itself with: another heritage institution coming together for capsules that breathe new life into both parties’ legacies.
Question Low Reebok
Pump Omni Lite II Reebok
Shaq Attaq OG Reebok
On legacy, Woodhouse isn’t accepting any less than greatness: “We need to make sure that Reebok not only thrives, but goes back into the pantheon of greats.” Beyond financial terms–which includes a $10 billion valuation–Reebok’s new leadership is concerned with “winning back the hearts and minds of sneakerheads around the world,” as well as those “finding a shoe or items that they don’t have to line up for–they don’t have to spend a thousand dollars for, and yet, they feel good and confident about what they’re wearing.”
With regards to quality issues that’ve plagued some aspects of the brand in the past, Krinsky shared that Reebok has signed on an “entire new fleet of partners on the supplier side,” a network that’s excited to work with the brand. Reebok is trying to replicate things like old school Hexalite cushioning with these manufacturers, but the fact of the matter is that some things just can’t be recreated the way they were in past decades.
Nevertheless, Krinsky and Woodhouse seem infectiously confident about their beloved brand returning to the glory days, reiterating a formula both simple and effective: letting Reebok be Reebok.