The stories behind famous sports brands' names

[NEW RESOURCE] Download this Retail Calendar to help you plan for special dates and campaigns
Sports brand names
Download Retail Calendar

Ever wonder where the sports brand names you know and love come from?

Many brands have the names of their founder/designer, but a lot of the more inventive names have some cool stories behind it.

Let’s learn more about the stories behind famous sports brand names!

A sports brand name: why is it important?

A brand name is crucial for sports brands for several reasons. These are 6 specific points highlighting the importance of a brand name in the context of sports brands:

Differentiation and Identity:

In the highly competitive sports industry, a sports brand name helps establish a unique identity for a sports brand. It distinguishes the brand from its competitors and helps consumers recognize and remember it.

A strong brand name can convey the brand’s values, personality, and positioning, making it stand out in the market. For example, Nike is known for its innovative and performance-driven products, which is reflected in its brand name.


A well-known brand name in the sports industry carries a reputation and creates a sense of trust among consumers. When people see a familiar and reputable brand name, they associate it with quality, reliability, and expertise. This trust is crucial for sports brands as consumers often rely on their equipment, apparel, and footwear for performance, safety, and comfort.

Adidas, for instance, has built a strong reputation for producing high-quality sports gear, which contributes to the trust consumers place in their brand.

Emotional Connection:

A sports brand name can evoke emotions and create a connection with consumers.

Sports brands often leverage this emotional connection to tap into consumers’ passion, enthusiasm, and loyalty for their favorite sports. A compelling brand name can inspire and motivate athletes and sports enthusiasts, making them feel a part of a larger community.

Under Armour, for example, evokes a sense of strength, determination, and protection, resonating with athletes looking for an edge in their performance.


A well-chosen brand name can serve as a powerful marketing tool.

It provides a focal point for marketing and promotional activities, enabling effective communication of brand messages and values. A strong brand name can easily become recognizable, memorable, and remarkable, helping in word-of-mouth marketing and social media engagement.

For instance, Puma’s brand name is short, catchy, and easily recognizable, which aids in promoting its products across various marketing channels.

Expansion and Diversification:

A reputable sports brand name opens doors to collaborations, partnerships, and licensing opportunities, enabling brands to reach new customer segments and extend their reach beyond their core products.

The brand name “Under Armour,” for example, originally associated with performance apparel, has expanded into footwear, accessories, and even connected fitness devices.

New call-to-action

Best examples of sports brand names


Decathlon is a French family-owned sporting goods retailer founded in 1976 by Michel Leclercq. With over 2080 stores in 56 countries and regions, it’s the largest sporting goods retailer in the world. The brand is inspired by the belief that the best sports products should be accessible to everyone and do that by providing world-class products both for beginners and professionals at extremely affordable prices.

The company designs, manufactures, and sells athletic apparel and equipment for sports, including cycling, hiking, hunting, basketball, swimming, running, soccer, tennis and many others.

The name “Decathlon” refers to a combined event in athletics that consists of 10 different track and field events. It symbolizes the brand’s comprehensive range of sporting goods, catering to various sports disciplines.


JD Sports Fashion, the sports and fashion retailer, spent in 2011 €20.0 million on a deal that gave it a 51.1% stake in the Sprinter group of companies in Spain.

Sprinter is one of the Spain’s leading sports retailers and sells footwear, apparel, accessories and equipment for a wide range of sports as well as some lifestyle casual wear including childrenswear.

The company is based in Elche in south-east Spain. Since they opened their first store in 1995 in Valencia, they have expanded throughout the country to exceed 175 physical stores. Today, they are more than 2600 employees, including stores, central services and logistics.


Reebok is an American-inspired global brand with a deep heritage in fitness.  It designs, manufactures, distributes, and sells fitness, running, and CrossFit sportswear, including clothing and footwear. The clothing line includes t-shirts, hoodies, pants as well as other related items. Reebok also collaborates with other companies to produce fitness equipment and workouts.

The company was founded in 1895 under the name Mercury Sports and it was not until 1960 when it adopted the Reebok name.

The brand name comes from the Afrikaans word rhebok, a type of African antelope.


The world’s largest athletic apparel company, Nike is best known for its footwear, apparel, and equipment sold in thousands of stores across the world. In total, there are more than 900 million items sold every single year. Across the market for athletic shoes, Nike takes up approximately 62%, making it the most popular brand for sporting footwear.

Founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports, the company became Nike in 1971 after the Greek goddess of victory. Many customers and fans of the brand mispronounce the name “Nike”, which is actually pronounced “ny-kee“. The famous Nike logo, a solid swoosh, was designed for just $35 by Carolyn Davidson, a student at Portland State University (later on she was given more than $640,000 worth of Nike products).

One of the most valuable brands among sport businesses, Nike employs over 76,000 people worldwide. It sells its apparel through the Nike brand, as well as its Jordan Brand and Converse subsidiaries. The company sponsors top athletes and sports teams around the world, including LeBron James, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and Alex Morgan.

Over the years, Nike has made some award-winning commercials, and in 2000 and again in 2002, the company won an Emmy award.


Adidas is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe, and the second largest in the world, after Nike.

The brand’s stripes, which is probably the most easily recognizable aspect of the brand, was originally placed on the sneakers for stability reasons, not design.

Since Horst Dassler, the son of Adolf Dassler, passed away in 1987, adidas was sold and is no longer family-owned. Instead, Adidas is now owned by Adidas AG, a multinational corporate group owned by several shareholders. It is the holding company for the Adidas Group, which consists 8.33% stake of the football club Bayern München, and Runtastic, an Austrian fitness technology company. Adidas is the parent company of Taylor Made, Rockport and Reebok.

Adidas wasn’t known as Adidas until the late 1940’s. The company takes its name from its founder, Adolf Dassler. More commonly called ‘Adi’, ‘Adidas’ is an abbreviation “Adi-Das(sler)”.

However, many have speculated otherwise, suggesting that the brand settled on the name because it was an acronym for “All Day I Dream About Sport“. The top 5 positive attributes associated with the adidas brand are iconic, fashionable, chic, authentic and minimalist.

New Balance

William Riley, a young English immigrant, designed his first flexible arch insert in 1906. It is a run specialty brand, but its products span a variety of sport and lifestyle spaces. It keeps a significant manufacturing presence in the US and UK.

It is believed that Riley came up with the name “New Balance” by observing chickens in his yard and demonstrated the way his arch supports worked by keeping a chicken foot on his office desk. He explained to customers that the chicken’s three-pronged foot resulted in perfect balance.

Widespread notoriety and a worldwide customer base eventually would come New Balance’s way, but it would take roughly 70 years before the New Balance brand name stormed onto the national stage. By the end of 1998 New Balance had transformed into one of the top five players in athletic footwear. 


ASICS Corp (ASICS) is a manufacturer and seller of sports apparel, shoes, and equipment for men, women, and kids. It also offers accessories, including bags and packs, headwear, socks, and intimate wear. ASICS is headquartered in Kobe-Shi, Hyogo, Japan.

Kihachiro Onitsuka, aspiring to start a company that would contribute to nurturing youth and the development of society through sports, founded ASICS in 1949. Our founding philosophy of ANIMA SANA IN CORPORE SANO – A Sound Mind, in A Sound Body expresses our desire for people around the world to live healthful, happy lives both physically and mentally.

Under Armour

Under Armour, Inc. is an American sportswear company that manufactures footwear and apparel. Founded in 1996 by former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank, Under Armour is driven by a passion for high performance clothing – engineered to keep athletes cool, dry and light throughout the course of a game, practice or workout.

As a new brand, Under Armour has taken the world by storm, and is the first-line sports brand with Nike and Adidas.

Back when the company was first starting, Kevin Plank mentioned the idea of calling the brand “Body Armour”. His brother, Bill, misheard him and thought he said: “under armour”

The North Face

The North Face produces outdoor clothing, footwear, and related equipment such as sleeping bags, hiking packs, tents, skiwear, etc. It began in 1966 as a climbing equipment retail store in San Francisco, founded by Douglas Tompkins and his wife, Susie Tompkins. It was acquired two years later by Kenneth “Hap” Klopp.

The sports brand name is based on the north face of the Half Dome, a distinct rock formation rising over 8,700 feet above sea level in Yosemite National Park.

How to come up with a good sports brand name?

Coming up with a brand name requires a thoughtful and strategic process to make sure it effectively represents your brand and resonates with your target audience.

Here’s a step-by-step process to help you generate a brand name:

  1. Define Your Brand Identity: Start by clearly defining your brand’s identity, values, target audience, and positioning. Understand what makes your brand unique and what you want to convey through the name. This clarity will guide the entire naming process.
  2. Brainstorm Keywords and Concepts: Begin brainstorming a list of relevant keywords, concepts, and associations that align with your brand identity. Consider the emotions, qualities, and attributes you want the name to evoke. For a sports brand, think about words related to athleticism, performance, speed, strength, and any other characteristics associated with your brand.
  3. Explore Word Combinations: Combine the keywords and concepts from your brainstorming session to create word combinations. Experiment with various combinations, including rhymes, alliterations, and abbreviations, to find unique and memorable name options. Consider both literal and abstract interpretations.
  4. Test and Gather Feedback: Once you have a shortlist of names, test them with your target audience or a focus group. Gather feedback on the names’ appeal, relevance, and memorability. This feedback can help you make an informed decision and narrow down your options further.

Additionally, you can consider these steps too:

  • Research Competitors
  • Check Domain Availability
  • Evaluate Trademark and Legal Considerations
  • Consider Future Scalability

Finally, based on the feedback and evaluation, select the brand name that best aligns with your brand identity, resonates with your target audience, is legally available, and has potential for future growth. Make sure the name is easy to pronounce, spell, and remember.

Once you have chosen a brand name, develop the necessary branding elements such as a logo, tagline, and brand messaging to complement and strengthen your brand identity.

Brand name generator

brand name generator

[FREE GUIDE] Download our brand name generator here >

How to register a brand name?

Registering a brand name involves several steps to protect your intellectual property rights and establish legal ownership.

Here’s a general guide on how to register a brand name:

  1. Conduct a trademark search to ensure it is not already registered or infringing on existing trademarks.
  2. Decide on the jurisdiction(s) where you want to register your brand name. Typically, you would consider registering in the country where you plan to conduct business or have a significant customer base.
  3. Consult with a trademark attorney who specializes in intellectual property law.
  4. Prepare and submit the application. If no opposition is filed or successfully resolved, and the trademark office is satisfied with the application, they will issue a trademark registration certificate.

Quiz: Which of the following statements about sport brand names is true?

  1. It’s always rational to prefer sports brand names over generic substitutes.
  2. Sports brand names are always economically wasteful since they trick consumers into buying more expensive goods and services that are no different than generic versions.
  3. Sports brand names give the seller an incentive to provide consistently high-quality products and services in order to protect the reputation of the brand.

You guessed it! Answer number 3 is true.


In essence, establishing a strong brand name is essential for sports brands to differentiate themselves, build credibility, and forge emotional connections with their target audience. A well-crafted brand name can become a powerful marketing tool, enabling expansion and diversification into new markets. However, the process of developing and registering a brand name requires careful consideration, research, and legal compliance.

To learn more about effective sport brand loyalty program management and how it can further enhance your brand’s success, we encourage you to contact our sales team.

Our experts can provide you with valuable insights and tailored solutions to optimize customer loyalty and engagement in the competitive sports industry.

New call-to-action New call-to-action

Don’t miss the opportunity to elevate your brand’s performance and take it to new heights. Contact our sales team today at [insert contact information] to embark on this exciting journey.