The development of technical running shoes that were created specifically to serve the running community was an entirely new category of footwear in the 1970’s. During this time, Brooks emerged as the dominant brand in this category, receiving top honors year after by Runner’s World Magazine.
Despite their early success, this iconic brand started to see dramatic decline in sales in the early 90’s, going from $360 Million in annual sales down to $17 million. During this 15-year decline, Brooks became a brand known for its casual sport-inspired shoes found in discount stores, a drastic shift from the brand’s early legacy.
In 1993 Concept 21 was called upon to help identify new opportunities for Brooks, and to re-establish the brand’s technical running category. The first thing that stood out to Concept 21 was that, despite the brand’s prominence in the running industry, only a handful of employees regularly ran themselves. Thus it was a running brand run by non-runners.
A late model example of the ‘Adrenaline’. First designed in the early 90’s when working with Brooks.
This incongruity was an obvious point of departure for Concept 21, who found that there was a disconnect between the Brooks’ running legacy and its people – whose job it was to deliver the vision for through the product. It was evident that a running culture was needed inside of the organization itself in order to transform the business as a whole.
With the support of leadership, Concept 21 organized an immersive experience where employees volunteered at local running events. Additionally, all managers and customer service representatives spent time working in their local running store, Super Jock’n Jill, which Brent founded alongside his mother, to develop a closer relationship with consumers in the technical running segment. These experiences transformed Brooks and helped re-establish the running culture that is still very present today.
To further aid Brooks, Concept 21 managed the design direction by mentoring their designers and product line managers to create footwear that was geared toward more technical runners. Concept 21 utilized their expertise to modernize and advance Brooks’ styling and technology to be competitive with the dominant brands in the category.
In the process they developed several iconic product franchise styles that are still in production today. These shoes incorporated a new silo based on a supportive trainer shoe that ultimately became wildly popular throughout the industry.
After a few years, Brooks was re-established as the go-to technical running shoe company and saw an $85 million increase in annual sales by 1998. To this day, Brooks credits Concept 21 for the inspiration and creativity that made the brand what it is today.
The new millennium came right in line with a new trend in the footwear world that was controversial and intriguing: The introduction of barefoot running. As influential leaders in the running world, Brooks was grappling with the ethics behind this new wave of minimal footwear. When reminiscing about the past, they recalled how miserable shoes were back then because of the insufficient few millimeters of rubber between their feet and the pavement.
Their instincts told them to dismiss this trend, but with customers demanding such a product they were conflicted and so sought consult with Concept 21 on the matter. The result was a new line of shoes called Pure that adopted some of the principals of barefoot/minimal running, such as zero drop and a wide toe box. But unlike other brands, Brooks applied plenty of cushioning to protect the consumer. The result was a product line that has lasted a decade and allowed Brooks to adopt to this trend in their own unique way.
After several decades of growth in the technical running segment and becoming the top contender in this category, Brooks recognized that they had hit their ceiling. Eager to continue their growth they turned again to Concept 21 to help diversify their product offering and provide the vision for where to go next.
Rather than compete in other athletic segments, Concept 21 urged the brand to stay authentic, diversifying into a lifestyle line that celebrated the heritage of Brooks. Based on a single black and white photo, the team set out to recreate their most notable shoes from the 70’s. Meticulous detail was given to this process – similar to what would be found during a restoration of a classic car. Even the old manufacturing processes were employed to bring a truly authentic style to the shoe.
Working closely with the sales team, Concept 21 oversaw all the design, development, product line management, and manufacturing of this new project. The new collection enjoyed strong sales and received enthusiasm from devoted customers, ensuring the project’s success into the future.