Nobull may be on the smaller side of footwear brands. But the private company is already building up an impressive roster of elite athlete partnerships.
On Monday, the Boston-based company said it had signed NFL quarterback Mac Jones, who was announced as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots on Tuesday. Jones joins the company’s eclectic and high-profile group of professional athlete sponsors, including quarterback Will Grier, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and the seven-time Olympic Gold medal swimmer Caeleb Dressel, who just earned five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics this year.
Nobull’s strategy for athlete partnerships is not guided by sport, rather by a desire to work with athletes that train hard and live their lives according to Nobull’s philosophy of never giving up.
“It’s all about training,” explained Nobull CMO Todd Meleney. “Whether you are on the PGA Tour or a professional tennis player or an NFL quarterback, training is the key ingredient to success. And that’s what we have built our ethos on.”
Nobull, which is the title sponsor for the CrossFit Games, initially a found loyal following among CrossFit athletes, thanks to its popular shoe made for training and lifting weights. Since its founding in 2015, the company has launched footwear for other sports including spinning, running, and golf. After a new funding round, the company hit a half-billion-dollar valuation in May after growing sales 80% in 2020.
Nobull’s no-nonsense mission was what initially attracted Jones to the brand. He had already been a loyal customer, even before he was drafted.
“I believe in perseverance and putting in the work, and I wanted to be a part of something unique,” Jones said in a statement. “Nobull represents a community of athletes who work hard and don’t believe in excuses.”
As is the case with many of Nobull’s sponsorship deals, the athlete made the first move. Meleney said Jones initially reached out to him on Instagram, which started the relationship between athlete and brand. By the time Jones was drafted, Nobull had already established a strong relationship.
“There was a little bit of trust and rapport built up and we were able to get a deal done within a week and a half after the draft ended,” said Meleney.
This sort of casual engagement with athletes is common for Nobull, which sends product to about 300 NFL players, Meleney said. And this relationship-building mentality building exists outside of football as well. Dressel had also been a Nobull customer well before he signed a sponsorship deal with the brand.
The idea of not being tied to any specific sport has helped create “a world of opportunity” for partnerships within Nobull, centered around general excellence in athletics and mindset.
“If you live up to the brand DNA, if you train hard and you’re a high character person, you connect with what we’re doing and what we stand for, it doesn’t matter what sport you compete in,” Meleny said. “You can have a home with our brand, and that has really been how we’ve approached it.”