As Olympic athletes change out of their athletic sneakers, chances are they are putting on a pair of Havaianas. They are the must-have sandal of Brazil, and the world for that matter.
"Brazilians don't say they are wearing flip-flops — they say they are wearing Havaianas," said Inhwa Lee, Havaianas' director of marketing for North America.
The brand, established in Brazil in 1962, has grown into a global footwear powerhouse even despite a recession plaguing its native country. "We sell about 220 million pairs per year," said Lee. "That means we produce about eight pairs per second in our factories."
That's a lot of flip-flops. The company says since its inception, it has sold about 3.5 billion pairs in total. That's enough flip-flops to circle the Earth about 47 times.
The simple rubber shoe comes in nearly every color of the rainbow and typically sells for anywhere between $20 and $40.
Havaianas may be known for its flip-flops but the brand has expanded to sandals and even shoes. However, it still tries to stay authentic to the brand — a pair of espadrilles has the rubber flip-flop sole with a canvas top.
The brand's success has attracted big-name partnerships and licensing deals — from Missoni to Valentino. And corporate partners like Disney.
"We are the exclusive and official flip-flop of Walt Disney World resorts," said Lee.
Currently, you can find this flip-flop favorite in the 500-plus Havaianas stores and authorized sellers around the world. They have nine retail locations in the United States, a number it expects to grow rapidly.
And in Rio de Janerio, at the Olympics Megastore — Havaianas branded with Olympic rings are flying off the shelves. With crowds often pushing their way into a pack of customers to find their sizes, all while workers try to replenish supply.
"We have been able to create a lot of brand buzz and make people aware that we are not just a flip-flop," said Lee. "We are a must-have item."
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.