VeloNews Honors Oakley
Founded by college dropout Jim Jannard and named after his dog, Oakley has become an icon in the sport. There are only a handful of companies in the world so ingrained in American cycling, and Oakley is the only one that can claim a supporting role during each and every American Tour de France victory.
Jannard started Oakley in 1975 with one product — a motocross handgrip — which he sold out of the back of his car. In the late ’70s, Jannard developed and began selling a motocross goggle that relied on an optically corrected Lexan lens, during a time when his competitors were still relying on glass and plastic lenses. The new goggle sparked Oakley’s reputation for designing high-tech products. In 1983, Oakley produced the Factory Pilot Eyeshade, a hybrid sunglass that relied on an adaptation of the company’s goggle lens. In 1986, when Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France, he did it wearing a pair of Eyeshades.
That Tour win propelled the company into the mainstream spotlight and prompted Oakley to assign Dana “The Duke” Duke as the company’s first full-time sports marketing representative to its athletes. Oakley found that it could promote its products with high-profile athlete endorsements, rather than advertising, especially when marketing the products’ performance or technological attributes. LeMond was the first, but plenty of high-profile cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, have since followed with their endorsements.