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The Wilson Sporting Goods Company is an American-based apparel, equipment and sportswear maker that is owned by the Finnish sports company Amer Sports. Similar to major sporting brands like Nike, they make equipment for tennis, badminton, golf, basketball, baseball, American football, association football, squash and volleyball. Having been around for almost 100 years, Wilson have established themselves as a premium sports equipment brand, and have signed plenty of A-list sports talent to their portfolio.
Wilson can trace its genesis to the creation of the Ashland Manufacturing Company in 1913, which was formed to make use of animal byproducts that were being produced by meatpacking plants in New York, Kansas City and Chicago that were run by the Sulzberger and Schwarzchild Company. In 1915, Ashland changed its name to the Thomas E. Wilson Company after appointing Thomas Wilson, a former president of another meatpacking company, Morris & Co.
Wilson left in 1918 to concentrate on the meatpacking business, as the company continued to produce sports goods from animal byproducts. They introduced the iconic baseball catcher glove in 1922, for Ray Schalk, and were renamed Wilson-Western Sporting Goods in 1925 following a distribution agreement with Western Sporting Goods. The current company name, Wilson Sporting Goods, came about in 1931 and it introduced the now-iconic classic American football which became the official ball of the National Football League (NFL).
The company began properly producing its own line of tennis rackets in the 1950s, designed by Jack Kramer. By 1964, the company had started making its own protective equipment for athletes after acquiring Wonder Products Company, by making use of the latter’s custom-mold section and expertise. Wilson was bought in 1967 by the LTV Corporation, and again in 1970 by Pepsi Co. It was during this period that Wilson started supplying official equipment for things like the US Open (tennis – 1979), the NBA (basketball) and uniforms for the US Olympic teams.
Wilson has since gone from strength to strength, having also diversified into sports such as badminton, volleyball and squash. It is currently one of the largest sports goods and equipment companies in the world, and was acquired by the Amer Sports group in 1989.
Chief amongst Wilson’s biggest sports stars has to be Roger Federer, 16-time tennis Grand Slam champion and widely considered to be the greatest tennis player of all time. Other notable tennis players include former greats such as Pete Sampras, Steffen Edberg, Justine Henin and Steffi Graf. Padraig Harrington, a golf Grand Slam champion, is also a Wilson sports ambassador.