Credit is given to Rollerblade for creating one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Rollerblade is not only the world leader of the inline skate market but their name has been used incorrectly as the name of inline skates. People have been calling inline skates “Rollerblades” no matter if they were even Rollerblade brand.
Inline skating itself can be traced all the way back to the 1700’s when a Dutchman nailed wooden spools to strips of wood on the bottom of his shoe to simulate ice skating. From there the idea laid idle until an American developed the first roller skate in 1863. This became the standard and inline skates were forgotten and put on the back burner. Some different versions of an inline skate popped up here and there but never really caught on. Technology was not at an all time high at the time so inline skates could not gain the functionality that was already donned by roller skates. Roller skates quickly became the staple for recreational fun. It was not until 1959 when the mass production of a metal wheeled skate signified a solid step forward for the inline skate. The timeline stretches a bit and the next step forward did not come until 1973 when the metal wheeled skate was improved to having a polyurethane wheel. This improvement gave the skates a much easier and more forgiving roll causing the popularity to grow immensely.
Ok, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this story! The evolution of Rollerblade inline skates
It’s 1980 and two hockey playing Minnesota brothers were walking around a sporting goods store when something caught their eye. They laid eyes on an inline skate and thought that it would make a great design for a hockey training tool. After refining the skates in the basement of their parents home the first Rollerblade skates were made by two well to do hockey players. Happy with their efforts the Rollerblade brand was founded that same year. The early 80’s showed some decent growth in Rollerblades as more and more hockey players would add inline skating to their off ice training. Nordic and alpine skiers also become hip to the notion of Rollerblades and added the skates to their training routine. Although more and more hockey players and skiers were taking to the asphalt on their Rollerblades the market was ultimately undeveloped and limited geographically.
Rollerblade wandered away from being strictly a workout tool for hockey players and skiers to being a fun activity for all to enjoy. Rollerblades were marketed as a new sport in a grass root marketing effort tin Miami Beach FL, Minneapolis MN and Venice Beach CA. As Rollerblade expanded their direct sales were eliminated and in the middle to late 80’s Rollerblades were starting to be distributed through sporting goods retailers. The 80’s were coming to a close and Rollerblade was busy at work making sure the inline skate market was promoted. Rollerblade held inline skating events, competitions, and other fun activities. Rollerblade was also responsible for the new trend aggressive skating in the late 80’s which has blossomed to a great existence. Rollerblade added an aggressive public relations plan to their traditional marketing tactics which helped bump inline skating into the mainstream. It was the early 90’s when international distribution became a viable outlet for Rollerblade.
Another milestone for Rollerblade was in 1991 when Nordica, a member of the Benetton group, purchased a 50% stake in Rollerblade. Rollerblade was now able to cross promote with major consumer product companies. This cross promotion gave Rollerblade credibility in the market and the publicity for inline skating was at an all time high. The 90’s was a great time for Rollerblade as the company was able to grow their business while also making great technological strides in inline skates. Rollerblade started using lighter, stronger materials while lowering prices. Rollerblade also added the revolutionary ABT brake and other technologies still used today. Rollerblade brand inline skates have always been top notch as has been their commitment to the sport. Rollerblade continues to make inline skating accessible to people of all ages and athletic types. With so many different styles of Rollerblade inline skates there is a style for everyone!
What has Rollerblade done for Inline Skating?
Rollerblade is synonymous with inline skating but why? Well, Rollerblade has really paved a new path with leading innovations and industry firsts. Some of Rollerblades most notable firsts include polyurethane boots and wheels, metal frames, dual bearings and heel brakes. As if that was not enough Rollerblade is also responsible for the following industry firsts:
And on to the next one...
Rollerblade continues to push the sport of inline skating into the future. Continuing on to new frontiers in innovative technologies and revolutionary marketing programs to spred the excitement that is inline skating.