Authentic Brands Group will officially close its acquisition of Reebok in March, but the company already has big plans for its big sneaker acquisition.
Announced on Wednesday, ABG has partnered with New Guards Group, the subsidiary of Farfetch that also owns luxury brands including Off-White and Heron Preston. In addition to taking over the European distribution of Reebok, NGG will be in charge of all marketing, designing new Reebok products, and managing relationships with retailers and customers throughout Europe, in collaboration with the brand strategy set by ABG.
Additionally, NGG has a second license with ABG to collaborate with luxury brands on Reebok’s behalf and sell Reebok in luxury retailers in more than 50 countries, not exclusive to Europe.
Nick Woodhouse, president and CMO of ABG, told Glossy that this partnership is the chance to unlock Reebok’s potential. Reebok’s contemporaries like Nike and Adidas have had no problem straddling the line between streetwear, sports and luxury fashion. In Woodhouse’s mind, Reebok should have that same ability.
“Reebok is not a luxury brand, but neither is Nike or North Face,” Woodhouse said. “People wear Nike with luxury outfits all the time. Reebok and Nike kind of grew up together. There’s just as much heritage and just as much pedigree at Reebok as at Nike. They’re both at the intersection of athletics and fashion. There’s no reason Reebok can’t be one of those brands, too.”
Woodhouse’s high-fashion aspiration for Reebok was one of the key reasons behind the partnership with New Guards, whose success with brands like Off-White he explicitly referenced as a point of attraction.
The immediate focus of Reebok will be on its core shoe lines of the Club C and the 4000 Low, which Woodhouse likened to Reebok’s equivalent to the Nike Dunk and Air Force 1, respectively. The two shoes make up more than 50% of all Reebok sales and will be the focus of future collaborations in the luxury space. No collaborations designed through New Guards Group have been announced yet, but when they come, Woodhouse said NGG will lead designing the product.
His vision for Reebok, as a brand that can rival Nike and be at home on the runway, is consistent with ABG’s acquisition strategy. In the last three years, the company has acquired an array of bankrupt or on-the-brink companies with the goal of turning them around. That includes Forever 21, Aeropostale and Brooks Brothers.
“We like to say that we acquire great brands that have broken models around them,” Woodhouse said. “There’s nothing wrong with the Reebok brand. It’s a great brand with a lot of nostalgia attached to it. But it was languishing inside Adidas.”