Kihachiro Onitsuka

My new year’s resolution: I want to be a runner in 2012. In the old days, you could become a runner just like that – you’d go out as you were, ran, and… mission accomplished. You’d be running – a runner. Done. Not in 2012.

Deciding to run creates many questions. What clothes to wear? You need to have an opinion on textiles, fabrics, cushioning, weather protection, and what not. How to navigate, what to listen to (not which music, but which device), which beginner’s schedule to adopt, which community to join, and finally: to auto-post your results on Facebook, or not to auto-post your results on Facebook. The latter has become an existentialist dilemma these days, and one Jean Paul Sartre never spent a minute on, I’m sure. He wasn’t much of a runner either, I guess.

Anyway, you need to buy many things now, and there’s a lot to choose from. You got to work your way through a tremendous pile of great marketing. So I bought an Apple iPod Nano, a Nike + Sportwatch GPS, and some Adidas, North Face and Superdry Japan garments, and I joined without auto-posting to Facebook. And all that before I had even arrived at the most essential of all running questions: Which shoes to wear?

A friend – who happens to be a recreational marathon runner – told me runners are very loyal to their brand of shoes. “An Adidas runner will always choose Adidas. Same for all other brands.” So it’s quite important to go with the right brand when you get started. You’ll probably be stuck with it forever. It’s a risky business.

Now running clearly is a classic thing. Every runner’s ultimate goal is to complete (or even win) a marathon. The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (in which he had just fought). He ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming Nenikékamen (‘We have won’) before collapsing and dying. Good story. And hidden within “Nenikékamen” is Nike, the Winged Godess of strength, speed, and victory. Now that’s a great name for a sports brand. Read Nike’s brand history and recognise the marketing genius that put the company in the number 1 position globally.

Number 2 on any runner’s consideration list for shoes must be ASICS, a Japanese brand. Did you know that ASICS stands for “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano”, the Latin adagium meaning a “Sound Mind In A Sound Body”? Whatever else you do, take a minute and read ASICS’ brand story – it is magnificant, and it ends in 5 (or actually 6) definitions of sportsmanship spirit. Sun Tzu himself couldn’t have phrased them better. Turns out that the founder, Onitsuka, first was a soldier, and then sold beer on the black market, before turning to “help the young to become good members of society”. Yeah. He modeled the first basketball shoes after a squid, and he tricked the great African marathon runner Abebe Bikila – who always ran bare foot – into wearing his shoes by convincing him that there would be lots of glass on the Tokyo streets. It worked, business prospered, and Onitsuka decided to give away 70 per cent of his shares to the employees. He’s a giant.

So even though their shoes look beyond aweful, I decided to just do it on ASICS. It’s too good a story.

Brand Management, Stories

Why I bought ASICS running shoes

My new year’s resolution: I want to be a runner in 2012. In the old days, you could become a runner just like that – you’d go out as you were, ran, and… mission accomplished. You’d be running – a runner. Done. Not in 2012.


3 thoughts on “Why I bought ASICS running shoes

    • Touché Jasper – and that’s another terrific story in this category: “Puma was formed in 1924 as Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik by Adolf and Rudolf Dassler. The relationship between the two brothers deteriorated until the two agreed to split in 1948, forming two separate entities, Adidas and Puma. Puma is currently based in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Following the split from his brother, Rudolf Dassler originally registered the new-established company as Ruda, but later changed to Puma. Puma’s earliest logo consisted of a square and beast jumping through a D, which was registered, along with the company’s name, in 1948.”

      The move from Ruda to Puma is just mind boggling, don’t you agree?

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