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High profile partnerships set to revive Reebok’s former glories

High profile partnerships set to revive Reebok’s former glories
December 8, 2013

Sports brand Reebok looks set to revive its fortunes by involvement with a range of key activities, events and programs including the CrossFit Games, Les Mills International and the Spartan Race world championships.

Sponsoring the CrossFit Games since 2011, a competition that claims to find the 'world's fittest man and woman', in 2013, for the first time, Reebok's name was associated with the Spartan Race world championships, the culmination of a race series that attracted 500,000 athletes.

The sporting goods company, a unit of Germany's adidas, signed a multi-year partnership with Spartan, which runs a series of demanding obstacle races of varying distance and difficulty ranging from a mile to marathon distances, in January.

September saw Reebok, announce a new partnership with New Zealand-based group fitness program provider Les Mills, marking a high profile return to the studio fitness sector where it had once been the most high profile sport and activity brand. From its association with the aerobics movement, Reebok was widely recognised as leading studio fitness brand of the 1980s and 1990s.

The five-year partnership with Les Mills will promote Reebok at 15,000 fitness clubs in 80 countries that offer its programs. The 1,000 Les Mills staff who train instructors will wear Reebok-branded clothing on the job, while Reebok will produce and distribute products bearing both the Reebok and Les Mills brands and offer 100,000 instructors a 25% discount on clothes and shoes.

With studio fitness experiencing its strongest resurgence since the days of aerobics in the 1980s, the link with Les Mills will, according to Reebok Studio Business Unit Vice President Barbara Ebersberger "re-define the studio category whilst celebrating Reebok's history in group fitness.

"Right back from the 1980s where people would hit the aerobics studio wearing their Reebok Freestyles to today, where thousands of people take part in LES MILLS classes each day, Reebok has always had a strong presence in the studio fitness arena. Today, more than ever we dedicate ourselves to encouraging everyone to harness their passion, energy and confidence through group fitness."

While full details Reebok's links with both Spartan and Les Mills have yet to be revealed, Reebok will start selling products developed for Spartan next year, prominently featuring the race circuit's brand in addition to their own.

Joining with these key activity brands is part of a Reebok strategy to revive its former glory, for, since helping make step aerobics a staple in gyms around the world two decades ago, the brand has recently fallen on hard times.

Reebok controlled 1.8% of the US$246 billion sportswear market last year, down from 2.1% in 2007, according to Euromonitor International. Meanwhile, adidas's market share rose to 9.5% from 7.8% in that period, while Nike Inc.'s climbed to 13.6% from 11.9%. Asics Corp. and Under Armour Inc. have also gained share market share, while Reebok has posted sales declines for four of the six full years since adidas bought it for US$3.8 billion in 2006.

A focus on group fitness routines tailored by personal trainers, combined with more innovative products, may help turn the tide back toward Reebok, according to Andreas Inderst, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.

According to Inderst, Reebok is putting fewer resources into team sports "and left them to Adidas and Nike," but sees, Inderst says group fitness as "an attractive segment in the sports market."

Reebok is already showing signs of revival, according to Fabio Fazzari, an analyst at Equita SIM SpA in Milan. The brand posted its first revenue growth in almost two years in its most recent quarter.

Fazzari explained "focusing on lifestyle and fitness is the right strategy as it is in the brand's DNA. They still have a lot of work to do, but they are grabbing consumers' attention."

Reebok has also introduced innovations such as ATV 19 footwear, which has a carbon-fibre grip similar to that of tires on all-terrain vehicles and is designed to handle runs across snow, sandy beaches and tall grass.

The brand this year announced a partnership with singer Alicia Keys, who signed a limited-edition footwear collection.

However, challenges remain, with Suzanne Stahlie, Managing Director at retail consultancy FutureBrand in Paris explaining "the next step for them to be successful is having people wear Reebok on the street because they are proud to wear the brand, (but) they are not there yet."




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