You know it already, the Reebok Pump is making a late charge to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, and we thought it was high time we took a look back at the sneaker's place in pop culture. No moment will ever be more important for the model than Dee Brown's Pumped-up lookaway dunk, but Reebok have done their bit in the media to spread the legend of the ball boot, with many memorable television commercials in the late 80s and early 90s.
Advertising today is so splintered across any 'channel' that can intrude on every possible facet of our lives that we've lost the sense of occasion commercials used to bring. The Superbowl half time break still challenges brands to bring out their best, but for the rest of the year, budgets are spread thin across a stack of new platforms that simply didn't exist 20 years ago. We kinda miss the sneaker ads from that 'golden era'; if they weren't bold, bordering on offensive and adventurous, then they were goofy and hilarious. Here we compile 10 of our favourite commercials for the Reebok Pump, featuring bungee cords, big ballers, a voice impressionist and even a little kid dunking off a skate ramp...
Pump up and Air out: Dominique Wilkins (1989)
Showing a competing product in an advertisement is a risky tactic. Attempts to bring competitors down can sometimes elevate them, and gives them free air time – no pun intended. Reebok rode the gauntlet though, they were so confident that their Pump was supreme to the Nike Air Force Command that they had no qualms with propping them together. It worked too, with the Pump taking the crown for inflatable ball sneaker of choice and sending the Command into early retirement. Dominique Wilkins was a great choice as the first messenger too. The Atlanta Hawks loyalist was loveable and had much clearer diction than Dennis Rodman (you'll see what we mean soon). How good's that heavy breathing 'Pump, Pump' jingle at the end too?!
The Bungee Jumpers (1990)
Wow. Downright scandalous by today's standards and very unlikely to make it past the lawyers, this comparative commercial went beyond the basketball court into extreme sports to prove how superior the Pump was to whatever Nike was churning out. Two dudes jump off a bridge connected to bungee cords, one is laced in some Swoosh boots, the other in some freshly inflated Pumps. The guy in the Pumps bounces back and stays dangling, shoes and livelihood intact – while all that remains of the Nike dude is his shoes strapped to the cord. Yeah, Pumps can save your life because they fit better! The Reebok creatives were having a laugh with this one, but not all viewers got the joke, with parents again spoiling all the fun by phoning in complaints to networks, forcing Reebok to scrap the spot.
Pump up and Air out: Dennis Rodman (1990)
He always had flair, but before the green hair, stupid tattoos, junk yard's worth of piercings, and friendships with dictators, Dennis Rodman was the best defensive player in the NBA. In this commercial he claims to have 'MVP feet', which isn't technically true – Magic Johnson won the big time award in 1990 - but he was definitely a star on the rise with accolades and the adoration of fans to prove it. His endorsement counted for something and his line in the commercial, 'When it comes to protection, this is no bull' creepily foreshadowed where he would go to achieve his greatest winning streak. The more important line for us comes just before that however, when he seems to say, 'I may hot dog'. Are we the only people finding that bit indecipherable? There's only one person who we almost believe would say 'I may hot dog' deliberately though, and that's Dennis Rodman.
Dominique Wilkins Vs Skate Kid (1989)
The old David versus Goliath story. Who will win a game of one-on-one: size 13 man mountain, Dominique Wilkins or size 4 kid, Jesse Roach? Watch to find out, and enjoy that bass boppin' soundtrack.
You Just Pump (1990)
An all-star cast of former and then-current ballers come together in this spot to talk about personal preferences for number of Pump pushes. Ranging from five to 70 pumps (surely the bags are fully inflated by 30 pumps though?), the commercial shows the shoe gives you a lot of space to make it work for you.
Foot Locker Pump TVC (1990)
Taking the bulge of the Pump bladder to real life situations, this Foot Locker ad has some surreal moments, while doing a dope job at demonstrating the breadth of the multi-sport Pump family. How satisfying is that moment when the air is released simultaneously on four Pump models?!
You'll be a Man, My Son (1993)
While it's not really an ad for the Pump, it's not really an ad explicitly for the Shaq Attaq either, so we're gonna include it on this list (FYI, the Shaq Attaq is technically a Pump too). If you thought the pump counting commercial was star-packed, you ain't seen nothin' – Wilt Chamberlain, John Wooden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willis Reed, Bill Walton and Bill Russell all make an appearance in Shaquille O'Neal's super future pep-up lair in this spot. It's kind of like an advertising version of The Expendables for its mega cast of action heroes.
The Imitator (1990)
Michael Winslow, 'Man of 10,000 Sound Effects', makes some freaky sound effects and impressions but confesses not he, nor no one or nothing else, can imitate the Pump. It's a pretty trippy bit, but we dig it.
Pump up and Air out: Bill Walton (1991)
Bill Walton takes home the award for overacting in this one. 'Pump! Where were you when I needed ya?!' Perfect, just perfect.
Pump up and Air out: Michael Chang (1991)
Michael Chang was an appealing proto of the Energizer Bunny – fast and relentless – not to mention the youngest-ever male winner of a Grand Slam singles title (French). His signature Pump model became known as the Court Victory and contained Hexalite as well as a nifty tennis ball trade on the usual basketball Pump mechanism. He featured in many advertisements for Reebok, but we've never seen someone chuck out a pair of Nikes with such genial disdain like Chang.