“It’s an integral part of who we are and the culture we have as a brand,” Chris Froio, GM of Reebok America, said.
Since its inception in 2000, CrossFit has bolstered its roster of affiliates to 14,000 in the U.S., making it an ideal partner for Reebok in its mission to cater to the workout-obsessed.
“If we want to be the best fitness brand, we have to say, ‘If you want to get in shape, we know what the best and latest trends are,’” Froio said.
CrossFit is part of the sizable cross-training world that boasted 12.9 million participants in 2016, which is up 10.3 percent from 11.7 million a year earlier, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
Those gym buffs brought in $1.02 billion in cross-training footwear sales in 2016, according to The NPD Group Inc./Retail Tracking Service. And Reebok is a top 10 brand in the category.
Training sneakers account for 35 percent of Reebok’s overall footwear business. The Nano models, which make up Reebok’s CrossFit-specific footwear franchise, are among the best-sellers in the brand’s training assortment.
But the benefits from the partnership exceed selling sneakers. “CrossFit has influenced the company and culture at Reebok. They’re actively engaged in CrossFit as a lifestyle,” said James Hobart II, partnership liaison at CrossFit.
Being entrenched in CrossFit, according to Hobart, has made Reebok experts in what the sport’s participants need to succeed in the gym. “They receive feedback from all levels of CrossFit, whether you’re a first-time athlete, or a sponsored athlete who competes at the CrossFit Games and are able to understand the feedback easily because [you] actually do CrossFit,” Hobart said.
And the expertise Reebok has gained in CrossFit has tied it to the sport in the eyes of the consumer. “When people see CrossFit, they think Reebok,” said Reebok-sponsored CrossFit athlete Spencer Hendel.
Part of Reebok’s authenticity in the sport, Hendel believes, is its dialogue with CrossFit’s top athletes and how those conversations lead to product improvements.
“They’ll give me shoes and say, ‘Wear these for two weeks while you work out, and let us know what you think.’ There have also been instances where I’ll climb rope wearing the [Nike] Metcon, a Nobull shoe and then Reebok, and they’ll ask me what I like about them all,” Hendel explained.
However, CrossFit’s growing popularity presents new challenges to Reebok. With brands such as athletic behemoth Nike and rising label Nobull pushing to get on the feet of CrossFitters, Froio said Reebok cannot afford to make mistakes.
“Moves by other brands keep us on our toes and raise the level [of effort] we have to put in to make sure we have the most cutting-edge products,” Froio said. “But it also validates what we’re doing.”
Despite arising challenges, being CrossFit’s partner continues to present new opportunities.
This year, the annual CrossFit Games competition is moving, which will allow Reebok to have direct contact with a new consumer base. The sport is taking its event from its longtime home in Carson, Calif., to Madison, Wis. The four-day competition kicks off Aug. 3 at the Alliant Energy Center.
“CrossFit is well-known and mature in California. In the Midwest, it continues to grow,” Froio said. “Madison is a college town with a younger demographic that allows us to come in and expose the sport to a broader demographic.”