Adidas, the German sporting goods company that recently acquired US rival Reebok, plans to reposition Reebok as a performance brand, said Herbert Hainer, Adidas?s chief executive.

While Adidas is known for engineering athletic shoes ? last year it launched Adidas I, a $250 high-tech wonder dubbed ?the world?s first intelligent shoe? ? Reebok has emphasised casual footwear.

Endorsement deals with rappers Jay-Z and 50 Cent have given the Reebok brand broad appeal among the more fashion-conscious urban consumers.

Speaking by satellite to a strategic footwear forum hosted by the World Shoe Association, Mr Hainer said: ?There is no doubt that we will position Reebok back more to a performance brand than it has been over the last two to three years. Reebok was one of the first to bring a lot of technology into the market.?

Mr Hainer reiterated Adidas and Reebok would maintain separate brand identities. ?We will keep the two brands separate, because we believe both have their own identity, heritage and consumer base,? he said.

Rob Langstaff, president of Adidas America, said the company viewed Reebok as ?sibling rivalry?, adding: ?We want to compete at the marketplace?.?.?.?and both of us will become better as a result.?

US sales of athletic footwear rose just 2.8 per cent in 2005 to $11.5bn, according to the NPD Group. The challenge for Adidas and rival Nike is to find ways to increase revenue in a mature market.

Mr Hainer said growth in the athletic footwear market would come from a combination of fashion and technology: ?Innovative, technologically driven product really can make a difference in the US market. If you bring new technology, new innovative product to the market, the consumer is ready to spend the money.?

Over the coming months Adidas and Nike will go head-to-head as they compete to sell products related to the World Cup.

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