How On Won on All Fronts to Become the 2021 Brand of the Year

On Nov. 30, On will be honored as Brand of the Year at the 35th annual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Nov. 29 print issue about its stellar performance.

On was a mainstay in headlines throughout 2021. But the brand believes this is simply the culmination of all the work it has put in since its inception.

Marc Maurer, co-CEO of On, told FN this month, “We’ve had huge growth every year, we’ve added tons of people every year and we’ve made On a much better place to work.

“This was the kind of year where you feel like you have a new starting line to take things to an even bigger level,” he added. “But most of the things that happened this year we started to create two or three years ago.”

While Maurer — a nine-year On veteran who assumed the co-CEO role this year — is humble in his assessment, it’s hard to describe the brand’s recent moves as anything but exemplary.

The biggest needle-moving moment came in late-August, when On filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ONON. Mid-September, the brand priced its IPO above its target range to raise $746.4 million, selling 31.1 million Class A ordinary shares for $24 each, up from its initial goal of $18 to $20 per share.

As for its product releases, On this month revealed CleanCloud, a sustainable new foam material it created that’s made using carbon emissions as a raw material. The goal, the company said, is to swap out all of its soles that are made from EVA to ones made with CleanCloud.

The brand also significantly bolstered its retail presence, which now spans more than 60 countries. In 2021, On garnered shelf space inside powerhouse retailers including Kith and Dover Street Market, it opened eight monobrand stores in China, launched shop-in-shops with Nordstrom and scaled its presence inside REI Co-op locations.

“On seems to be positioned to break out,” said Dan Fitzgerald, co-owner of Heartbreak Hill Running Co. in Boston and Chicago. “It’s a smaller brand, a growing brand, just went public and it seems to be making good on its promises of getting an Olympian [in Joe Klecker]. They quickly put together a team and the products have good buzz. As they sharpen their run performance side, they’re going to be a force.”

Bekah Metzdorff, co-owner of Mill City and Saint City Running in Minneapolis-St. Paul, added, “On is getting their pieces of the puzzle in the right place, and their product is going in the right direction.”

In its first quarter as a public company, On reported a net sales growth of 68% to 218 million Swiss francs (or about $235 million at current exchange) for the three months ended Sept. 30. Net income totaled 13 million Swiss francs (or $14 million).

The company did this while facing industry-wide challenges, particularly the factory shutdowns in Vietnam earlier this year. But Maurer believes there are even bigger challenges for On to overcome ahead.

“We’re growing so quickly as a company, so the question is how do we make sure the culture is constantly evolving in a positive way? That’s a constant challenge, and it’s even more so in the year the company goes public,” Maurer said. “We’ve done a lot of work around the team [to create] a very inclusive company. If you’re coming to work for On, it’s because you want to inspire the human spirit through movement, because you want to have an impact on sustainability, because you want have an impact on how we make this industry more diverse and inclusive.”

Looking ahead to 2022, Maurer said consumers can expect new product that should generate heat in the marketplace, fresh innovation and improved storytelling — much of the same that made On a force in the running and athletic markets.

“At one point, we said, ‘Nothing will change and that will change everything,’” Maurer said. “That’s a bit oversimplified, but I think we’ve been very consistent in terms of how we evolve the organization, how we do marketing, how we tell stories and that will continue next year.”

For 35 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards ­— often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The 2021 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Authentic Brands Group, FDRA, Informa, On and Wolverine Worldwide.

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