Reebok back? We’ve heard it before and for a moment it seemed so. Just years ago, a curated crop of well-timed retros saw Swizzy and Shaq cashing in on the high top craze, missed models from Shawn Kemp hitting a nerve with retro kids and Allen Iverson’s always iconic Question still feeling right at retail.
While absence made the heart grow fonder on said signatures, over abundance eventually turned nostalgia to noise. In recent months, the Classics campaign re-branded by signing Kendrick Lamar, a move thought to be more about community and less about kicks, and the performance side of the Vector began to hone in even harder on CrossFit all while signing what seemed like a left-field deal with UFC.
Though tire flips and mixed martial arts rarely resonate with the sneaker culture, they do find Reebok randomly right at home. Focusing on fitness and unlikely heroes, the CrossFit campaign sees Reebok returning to alternate athletics (think aerobics in the 80s only with the opposite attitude) while UFC athletes not only embody the intensity of CrossFit but also offer edgy endorsement ala AI.
How do they tie this all together with the current consumer? The Pump. Never on schedule but always on time, the Pump technology has been a reoccurring catalyst for Reebok at retail. First launched in the 1980s with an emphasis on hoops, the ball branded innovation struck a rare balance between novelty and nuance, focusing on the fit of the upper in the most engaging of manners. It was a rare instance where Nike either bit or was beat to the punch, with Reebok delivering public blows via their “Pump Up, Air Out” advertisements. Over time, the tech would cross over to tennis, most notably on Michael Chang’s aptly named Court Victory Pump, eventually lending its services to running on the Pump Dual Runner and Insta Pump Fury.
Throughout the following decades, the Pump technology would be retroed and rebranded, appearing in fashionable but not always functional form on old school favorites like the Pump Omni Lite. Conversely, the performance side of the Pump would be retooled and revamped for basketball, adding alternate appeal in the 2000s to both the Answer and Above The Rim lines.
Hoops history aside, how does all this make sense for CrossFit and UFC and will today’s teen or everyday athlete even care? By catering to a new clientele and refashioning their formula, the answer just might be ‘yes.’ Offering the fun of the OG Pump with a thinner, inside out tooling, the newly introduced ZPump Fusion aims to put in work on the toughest of terrains while still playing cozy on the day to day.
“It’s an all-around, all purpose shoe,” says UFC Light Heavyweight Champ and face of the ZPump Fusion, Jon “Bones” Jones. “It’s a lightweight training shoe, but it’s also an everyday casual shoe. When it’s not pumped up, you can wear it to the store, to church, walking around the house, you can wear them as slippers if you want to. Then when you’re ready to train you can reach down, give it 20 pumps or so, and now you have a tight fitting, athletic performance shoe.”UFC’s Connor McGregor, Paige VanZant and Jon Jones in the Reebok ZPump Fusion
Though big name backing certainly adds endorsement, won’t it be hard for athletes that compete barefoot to sell shoes? UFC President Dana White doesn’t see it that way. “They don’t wear shoes in the ring, but nobody does more training than them,” explains White. “These guys run, they do sprints, they do plyometrics…90% of what they do leading up to a fight they do in shoes.” On top of that, with the new Reebok x UFC partnership, White sees his fighters moving product — both footwear and apparel– like that of NBA and NFL stars. “I think you’re going to see clothing with their names on it and tennis shoes designed about them. Whatever gear the fighters are wearing the fans want to wear.” Jon “Bones” Jones also alluded to the fact the shoe’s printable, customizable upper will lead to some wild colors which one would imagine he’d have a hand in inspiring.
While that’s huge for MMA fans, for the everyday athlete that doesn’t aspire to emulate or look like a UFC fighter it all comes back to performance. “Fit and support is the preeminent issues in good performance gear,” notes Reebok’s Paul Litchfield, the creative behind the original Reebok Pump line. “The one thing the Pump has done since the beginning and evolved since is that it allows the user to customize their footwear exactly to their needs. The Pump allows the user to have a casual, loose fitting day and a tight, high performance day.”
“It’s almost like we’re coming home,” reflects Litchfield. “We started with the first fitness community in the 1980s and we’ve been the destination for social fitness since then. [Pairing up with CrossFit and UFC] was as much as a deviation as it was getting back to what was important and what made us special. This is really the start or renaissance again for Pump.”
The Reebok ZPump Fusion is available now in both men’s and women’s colorways, as well as custom options, at Reebok.com.