It's a big world. Go run it! This is ASICS motto in 2015. The Japanese athletic equipment company has grown impressively over the years. How did it all start?
Onitsuka Co. was established in the year 1949 by one Kihachiro Onitsuka in Japan. The company was founded so as to address the increase in demand of basketball shoes by Japans young rising stars. Despite the fact that the owner lacked any kind of experience in the manufacturing and designing of shoes, he still threw himself willingly and was fully determined to understand their psychology. From the initial start Mr. Onitsuka demonstrated an obligation to innovation. His first ever shoe creation, was designed to mimic the suction cup of an octopus.
Kihachiro Onitsuka, founder of ASICS
Onitsuka named his copany ASICS after the acronym of Juvanal's famous saying "Anima Sana in Corpore Sano", which means "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body".
In the year 1951, the company’s first ever volleyball shoes were designed and featured vulcanized rubber soles. A shoe design specifically contrived for long distance runners, the Tiger Marathon was also released the same year and included numerous technical novelties. A synthetic fiber that is also known as Vinylon was used in the shoes uppers, while a band that was located along the sides ensured maximum support for the arcs. Throughout the mid 1950’s Onitsuka continued to offer more and more shoe designs for the marathoners, with each new design coming with a series of upgrade.
Later on the 1960s and 1970s ASICS products were become very popular and common in the Olympic Games and every other world sporting event. A number of top athletes from other countries, who won silver and bronze medals had Mr. Onitsuka shoes at the Tokyo Olympics in the year 1964. In addition a market survey was also able to establish that an estimated two thirds athletes at the famous Boston Marathon had his shoe design.
The fixed pin track and field shoes of 1964
As time went by, the product development seemed to improve. The sets of new technologies were applied in basketball, tennis and training shoes in the 1960s. As the first person to employ the use synthetic leather in the production of shoes, Mr. Onitsuka was now become more and more versed with shoe production. In the 196s, Mr. Onitsuka was also able to develop the first track shoes that sported an interchangeable spikes in the Run Spark production line.
In the same year, the Olympic line was launched after many years of suggestions from world class athletes. This series, marked the creation of the ASICS trademark signature that features two vertical lines that are intersecting with another pair of lines that are originating from the shoe heels. These intersecting lines are believed or in other words said to enhance reinforcement and also provides some sense of decorations.
By 1977, the ASICS brand was established by the unification of the Onitsuka Company and JENELENK a sporting and fishing goods company and also a sports uniform maker. Mr. Onitsuka became the president of the newly formed company. After the unification, the newly formed ASICS innovated another volleyball shoe design, the Rota series which was introduced in 1978. This shoe design was the first ever to sport an out-sole which was contrived to absorb shock. In the same year, the California was launched, a progeny of the famous Corsair jogger. The California sported a number of features like a highly reflective surface which was used to alert drivers when there was no or less light.
In the year 1980 ASICS contracted to develop Japans official Olympic shoes, for the Moscow edition. However the shoes were never worn because Japan joined hands with the US in the protest against USSR incursion of Afghanistan. During the early 1980s, Mr. Onitsuka shoes were being exported to over 80 countries throughout the globe, with some going behind the Berlin wall. As a way of mitigating the fluctuations of the exchange rates together with import restrictions, ASICS delegated its licensing overseas to Israel, United States and Australia respectively.
In 1981 the company experienced some difficulties in breaking into the western markets. A total of 5.1 million US dollars were incurred as loses, and this was mainly because of the ascendency of Adidas together with the lack of an effective marketing stratagem. The company was forced into a marketing agreement with a California sports store, Second Sole Company, as the LA Olympic Games was approaching in 1984. During the buildup, the company’s sales rose up by 19 percent to a total of 73 billion Yens.
By 1987, the shoes were being designed with shock absorbing gels, especially in the Fable Radick and the Freaks version. The introduction of the gel allowed the shoes to be much lighter than the ones that were initially cushioned by sponge, which in turn made the brand a number one choice among runners. During the same year the company began constructing a brand new engineering lab in Kobe that is estimated to be worth 27 million dollars.
Fable Radick shoes
Later on in the 1990’s, ASICS was able to recapture its holdings in West Germany, the United States and finally Australia. The company became an official supplier for the Barcelona Olympics in the year 1992 for over 20,000 athletes and an estimated 60,000 torch bearers. During the 1990’s the company presented a line of shoes that were not only durable but also lightweight with some featuring a blend of urethane and synthetic leather. During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Nako Takashi who was the ladies winner during the marathon race was wearing a customized ASICS brand shoe, which was designed to fit her legs since one was a few centimeters shorter than the other.