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Chasing Nike and Adidas

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

The running shoe market is a multi-billion dollar business. It is very consolidated and has been dominated for decades by a few giants like Nike, Adidas and Asics. This was true at least until 2010 – the year a start-up called On was born in Zurich, Switzerland.

From the beginning, the company had one mission: to revolutionize the running experience. Following this idea, the company turned the running business upside down and this not last due to its smart marketing.

The running shoe market has been rapidly growing for years. The fitness movement certainly is one reason for its growth. However, probably an even more significant driver is the athleisure trend. In case you have not heard about it yet, it is a fashion trend. Sports clothing is designed in a fashionable way so that it not only can be worn for athletic activities but also at other casual or social occasions. So, it happens that you come across running shoes not only on the running track but also at the work place, at the university or even when going out. Most of the time it is either a Nike or Adidas shoe, two established brands in the industry. However, if you live in Europe (or also in the US) you are more and more likely to see an On shoe instead.

Only nine years after the launch of the company, its shoes now are available in over 50 countries. Over seven million pairs have been sold. On the one hand, the success of On is based on its innovative Cloud-Tec-System which redefined the running experience (it makes you feel like walking on clouds – it is close, I tried it). On the other hand, it can be attributed to its clever marketing. Who does not want to walk on clouds? Probably even more important is its collaboration with athletes. From the beginning it sponsored small athletes. With each place on the podium the company gained some awareness. In the meanwhile, world-class athletes such as triathlon legend Nicola Spirig and triathlon world champion Javier Gómez belong to the brand ambassadors.

Not only on the running track famous people wear On. Having talked about the athleisure trend, here is an example: Emmanuel Chivo Lubezki who won three Oscars in the category Best Cinematography wore On shoes for the Oscar photo shooting.

The company does not publicly share revenue details but it is rumoured that its revenue has been doubling every year. With 400 employees, it still is a small company (to compare, Nike has over 76,000). But when it continues to grow with that speed, who knows what can happen in the future.

Written by: Yannic Egli

Edited by: Nicola Curci

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