Has Reebok Stopped Trying?

Written by Alex Andrew

I was digging through my junk mail account recently when I came across an e-mail entitled “Get Locked In With J.J. Watt.” While I am not a Houston Texans fan (I’m convinced that the team itself is a poorly executed practical joke), I AM a fan of Watt’s. While he may look like a meathead/C-student/state trooper, he’s actually an easy guy to like.

Watt has been in the NFL since only 2011, and has been so dominant at defensive end that only a dogfighting scandal or a career ending injury within the next month or so can keep him out of the Hall of Fame. He has been on top of the PFF 101 (the gold standard for football statistics) for three years, and was in the top three previous to that. So he’s good, obviously. He can now safely coast his way into Canton, but he chooses not to because he is not that kind of guy. As of the date that I’m writing this (11.2.15), we are only a few weeks removed from his equivalent of the Jordan flu game. He plays hard, week in and week out. Not only that, but he has a sense of humor. Look no further than his appearances on The League.

So when I saw that I had an e-mail advertising J.J. Watt specific Reebok gear, I was kind of excited. I’m not about to go buy Houston Texans gear (again, part of Bob McNair’s bizarre practical joke), but I would buy something Watt related if they made something at least halfway cool looking. So I open the e-mail…

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This is not exactly promising. It looks like J.J. Watt wearing a generic Reebok t-shirt and holding up a hideous pair of sneakers. Is this just a promotional photo? Probably, I assume. Let me click on the link so that I can see the actual Watt gear that they have available. That’s when I’m greeted by this video…

For a company who’s tagline is “Be more human”, they could not make their athletes seem less human than with videos like these. Watt came across as bland and devoid of personality, yet somewhat arrogant (but in a boring kind of way). The sad part is, though, you could take literally any other athlete signed to Reebok and make the exact same ad with the exact same tagline. But, hey, it’s just a video, right? Let’s reserve judgment until we actually see the merchandise itself.

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Wait, what? That’s the shirt?! Where is the personality? Where is the originality? Where is the J.J. Watt?!

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Are you fucking kidding me?! They took his jersey number and slapped it on the back. Not only that, but they could not be bothered to center the goddamn thing properly. Truthfully, this picture looks like a Photoshop mock-up of a shirt that does not actually exist in real life (but I’m not an expert on these kind of things). This badly placed “99” is the only thing about the shirt that has anything to do with J.J. Watt.

Maybe Reebok is trying to make “Hunt Greatness” into Watt’s signature phrase, which works if “Nike’s corny and uncool cousin” is what you are going for as a brand identity. Do you really expect us to believe that “Hunt Greatness” has any personal significance to Watt? When he’s been watching tape all morning and lifting weights all afternoon, he’s running up a tall flight of stairs in the pouring rain, he’s gasping for air and every muscle in his body is begging him to stop…he reminds himself that he’s “Hunting Greatness.” This is doubtful.

It seems more likely that some intern in Reebok’s marketing department was randomly stringing sports cliche words together, and that “Hunt Greatness” was somewhere in the middle of the list between “Fight to Win” and “Keep Pushing Forward.” Maybe this intern’s supervisor asked him or her if he/she had any ideas for the J.J. Watt campaign, and he/she rattled them off mindlessly, regretting every second of his/her unpaid internship. His/her supervisor stopped him/her…

“Hunt…Greatness….yes….yes, that’s the one!”

“Wait,” the intern replied, “really? I have a bunch of other ones..”

“No!” said his supervisor, “Hunt Greatness is perfect!”

“Because if you give me a little time I think I can top it…” said the intern, before his/her supervisor cut him/her off again.

“No…no, we don’t need to try any harder. We’re Reebok.”

The lack of effort in this shirt is a borderline insult. I look at it and ask myself “could Reebok give any less of a fuck?” My question is quickly answered by this next shirt.

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They made the most boring, least imaginative shirt possible…and then topped it! It’s astounding that they actually have the nerve to call this a “J.J. Watt collection.” This is essentially a plain Reebok shirt (available in three colors) with Watt’s number slapped haphazardly on the back.

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Can we talk about this logo for a second? What is this? A triangle? Really? This is a company that had the iconic (at least to sneakerheads) British flag logo, then had that weird road looking thing for what felt like forever, and now they’re giving us a triangle? It turns out there is actually an explanation for this rebrand:

The new Reebok Delta symbol represents the positive and transformative change that fitness can have on a person’s life. Through the millennia the delta has been a symbol of change and transformation. The Reebok Delta has three distinct parts each representing the changes – physical, mental and social – that occur when people push themselves beyond their perceived limits and embrace an active and challenging life.

Oh, go fuck yourself! This sounds like Crossfit douchebaggery at it’s finest.

As it turns out, Reebok has decided to make “bro, do you even work out?” into it’s entire brand identity.

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What kind of motivational poster bullshit is this? This is just the kind of rhetoric you hear from that bozo at your local YMCA who’s always trying to correct your form, right before he tries to sell you Herbalife. 

Anyway, it turns out that Watt’s “Collection” is available in a few different colorways.

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There’s a patronizingly patriotic baseball shirt!

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Patronizingly patriotic for kids! (no number on the back)

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White trash camo for kids!

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Chick shirt!

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Other chick shirt!

So the t-shirts suck. What about the sneakers? Reebok is a shoe company, after all. Maybe they gave Watt a signature sneaker. Nike has done wonders for athletes like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving. Surely someone of Watt’s ability and (more importantly) marketability will have his own sneaker.

He does not. Instead, they have what seems to be a J.J. Watt themed colorway of this atrocity.

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So instead of giving your star athlete his own model of sneaker, which can then be remade in an infinite number of colorways which will be sought after by an entire subculture of sneakerheads who actually go nuts for this kind of stuff (have you seen how much a new pair of Lebron’s retail for?), you have this hideous monstrosity.

So there you have it. A handful of badly made t-shirts and some ugly sneakers (offered in multiple colors, which actually takes away the coolness of the whole thing). Is Reebok confused, stupid, or lazy?

They might be confused. They seem to have bought into this whole Crossfit/fitness lifestyle thing, and they are trying to make that into their brand. The problem is, of course, that it completely misses the mark for most NFL (and sports) fans. The fact that someone likes watching football on TV does not necessarily mean that they want to go out and start running laps. Sure, Nike makes a lot of active wear, but they’re not going all-in on that stuff. If you want to make money off of football fans, you have to make some shirts in a loose-fitting XXL.

They might be stupid. As an avid MMA fan, I am very familiar with Reebok’s stupidity. They have a giant deal and it turned it into a massive lose-lose situation for both themselves and the UFC. They have forced every fighter in the promotion to wear their “uniforms”, thus eliminating the fighters’ main source of income: sponsorship. They have taken a sport marketed almost entirely by individuality, and it turned it into the guy in the white-and-black against the guy in black.

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So bad is the recent UFC/Reebok sponsorship, people are already begging for it to be over.

Not only is Reebok is confused and stupid, they are also lazy. Just look at these bullshit “minimalist” designs. Look at how poorly placed the graphics are on the shirt themselves. Finally, look at this actual screenshot from the UFC rollout event.

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This is not the correct spelling of the word “flexibility”.

The crazy thing about all of this is that some of these Watt Reebok shirts are selling out (or at least seem to be). In fact, Reebok (owned by Adidas) actually seems to be doing well financially. So maybe there is something to this Crossfit-ish driven nonsense. If Reebok can make a profit pumping out generic-looking gear and passing it off as part of a fitness lifestyle, why shouldn’t they? Maybe instead of asking “has Reebok stopped trying”, we should be asking “why should they bother?”

1907514_1083815424978254_5819057157408723426_n  Alex co-hosts The Lowbrow Podcast, follow them @lowbrowpodcast

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