Wearables leader Fitbit rules out brand partnerships with Nike or Adidas

Fitbit, the biggest player in the fitness wearables market, has ruled out partnering with big-name players like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour in favour of building up its own brand.

Fitbit: planning on building out its brands with new TV campaigns
Fitbit: planning on building out its brands with new TV campaigns

Fitbit sells smart fitness hardware like the Fitbit Surge smartwatch, Fitbit Charge bracelet, and Fitbit Aria weighing scales. The boom in connected fitness and wearable technology led the company to its initial public offering in June this year.

But the launch of the Apple Watch has put Fitbit's brand under pressure, though the firm claims not to consider the smartwatch direct competition. According to second-quarter figures from IDC, Fitbit shipped more wearable devices than Apple globally, but is "poised" to lose its leadership position.  

We haven’t looked to partners so much in the fitness space and, to be honest, most of the players didn't believe wearables was a category until just a couple of years ago

Asked whether a partnership with a big-name sports firm might help shore up the Fitbit brand, chief revenue officer Woody Scal said cutting a deal was "unlikely".

Instead, the firm will focus on fashion partnerships, like its existing collaboration with jewellery designer Tory Burch. It will also invest more in marketing.

Speaking to Marketing at a press conference hosted by Salesforce, Scal said: "Our partnerships are really focused on the fashion side, and the reason for [that] is we want to expand the universe of people who find wearables acceptable.

"We haven’t looked to partners so much in the fitness space and, to be honest, most of the players in the fitness space didn’t believe [wearables] was a category until just a couple of years ago.

"Most people in the fitness space, in my mind, saw their world as serving people who already very fit and trying to get fitter.

"We saw our mission as helping everybody find a path to fitness. We are less likely to find partnerships there."

Fitbit's jewellery partnership with designer Tory Burch

Fitbit launched its first TV campaign last November, and plans to launch another in the near future, Scal added. The firm’s S-1 filing shows growing investment in marketing, from $10.2m in 2012, to $26.8m in 2013, up to $112m last year.

Scal said: "Fitbit is 100% dedicated to this category. We are really focused on the brand."

Sports brands rush into wearables

Scal’s comments follow a rush of initiatives from sports brands to build out a presence in connected fitness.

Adidas last month bought wearables maker Runtastic for £154m, while Under Armour bought two fitness apps, Endomondo and My Fitness Pal, earlier this year.

In an interview with Marketing, Under Armour’s marketing chief for EMEA, Chris Carroll, said the firm was planning to move into connected fitness apparel and launch its own fitness social network.

The trouble facing sports brands is their inexperience in the tech space. Competition for skilled developers is fierce, with start-ups and established tech brands like Apple all vying in wearables. Carroll said Under Armour was still deciding whether to acquire talent, or hire it directly.

Apple, meanwhile, has partnered with Nike on producing next-generation wearables.