Why Nobull Says DTC Competition From the Athletic Giants Is a ‘Great Thing for Us’

Since launching in 2015, digital-native footwear brand Nobull has built its business by going direct to the consumer and cultivating a devoted following among hard-core athletes, especially those in the CrossFit community.

In recent years, though, more and more of the athletic giants — namely Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc. — have also been prioritizing their digital DTC channels, making an already-competitive landscape that much more challenging.

However, Nobull’s chief marketing officer, Todd Meleney, recently shared with FN the brand’s surprisingly upbeat attitude about the crowded playing field. He also spelled out its plans to capture a larger share of the market, while still supporting its core customers.

Is Nobull worried about the sudden shift of athletic giants going direct to consumer?

TM: “If the traditional brands are investing in the infrastructure of buying these types of products online, it helps accelerate people becoming comfortable buying footwear and apparel online. So in that sense, it’s a great thing for us. Obviously, it gives the consumer more choice. But the more people that are comfortable buying online, the bigger the opportunity for all DTC companies.”

Nobull Todd Meleney
Nobull’s Todd Meleney
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nobull

How are you staying competitive in a more-crowded market?

TM: “[The most important thing] as we transition from a startup to a brand that’s more established is awareness. So we’ve looked at areas to introduce Nobull to new communities to build on the momentum we’ve had. We’ve done that through key partnerships with athletes and groups like the PGA Tour, Life Time Fitness — and others that we’ll be announcing over the next month or two. It allows Nobull to be present with new audiences that aren’t reliant on the ever-changing digital ecosystem. And it allows us to celebrate the brand through content, storytelling and onsite activations. I think you can be the smartest digital advertiser in the world, but you’ll only get so far if you’re not building authentic roots and building community.

Your origins are in CrossFit. So are you moving away from that?

TM: “We’re just expanding the definition of training. Yes, we started in CrossFit, and CrossFit is an incredible training methodology that we subscribe to. But there’s also sport-specific training — there’s Olympic training, there’s Alpha training with Life Time, there’s personal training. And that’s who our customer is. Our customer golfs four days a month and trains five days a week — that’s the Nobull golfer. If we can connect with them in an authentic way, we feel like they’re going to help share their passion for the brand with their community.

Nobull Runner+ black
A runner wearing the new Nobull Runner+ in the black colorway.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nobull

In March 2021, Nobull signed as the title sponsor of the CrossFit Games. How significant has that been for the brand?

TM: “It’s had a big impact. CrossFit is very community driven, and they have an underdog mentality. And CrossFit is very hard, so the people who do it take a level of pride and ownership in the mentality that’s connected to it. Therefore, if they see a brand that believes in that mentality, they can align with it and support it. We’ve had the CrossFit community behind us for a while — and even more so in the last year. We think that’s going to be a big part of the future for us too.”

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