In the 1980s, Reebok was a fitness-focused company at the forefront of the women’s aerobics and step training movements. By the late’90s and early 2000’s, the brand had aligned itself with sports, forging partnerships with big-name athletes and top-level properties, including the NFL and NBA. But around 2011, Reebok began retracing it steps in an effort to return to its roots and reposition itself as a leading fitness brand that catered to the every day exercise enthusiast rather than elite sports superstars.
In an interview with Yan Martin, vp-brand sponsorships at Reebok, we asked why Reebok went back to basics and how fitness-based partnerships with organizations like CrossFit are elevating the brand. Be sure to check out our full report in the February issue of Event Marketer. Following is our Q&A with Martin.
EM: How are Reebok’s fitness sponsorships helping to reposition the brand?
Martin: It’s definitely a different model where we feel like the everyday person is our hero. It doesn’t mean that once in a while we’re not going to use a professional athlete in team sports. But the way we’re going to build these partnerships is because it’s not necessarily what [participants] do on the field, but how they approach their lives outside of the field, how they see fitness as a way for them to get better and how they contribute to communities and life outside of team sports.
EM: How did Reebok’s relationship with CrossFit develop?
Martin: There’s a very strong fitness culture here so a lot of [employees] started doing CrossFit before we even had a partnership. We saw in it the magic of really fulfilling yourself as a human and becoming holistically better in your life through pushing yourself through fitness… It was really a deal that embodied for us what fitness should be today.
EM: Reebok is the sole outfitter for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. How does that relate to the everyday fitness buff?
Martin: The slight difference with our UFC deal is that, from a fitness standpoint, we want to occupy and really help people in the ‘train like a fighter’ space. So it’s not necessarily fighters that get in the ring, but it’s people who use boxing classes as a way to stay fit or MMA (mixed martial arts) classes as a way to stay fit… Just like obstacle racing and functional training and CrossFit, they’re tough classes. And that’s really what we stand for. We feel fitness should be demanding and challenging for it to be maximized in helping you.
EM: What do Reebok’s partnerships with brands like CrossFit and UFC have in common?
Martin: Community or being able to exercise in groups is a very, very strong component of fitness the way we see it. These partners all have, at the core of them, communities. You exercise in groups and you share the experience. None of them have the isolated fitness, ‘put on your headphones and get on a treadmill’ mentality. These communities are made up of real people, everyday people that do extraordinary things through fitness.
EM: How do you stay relevant to fitness enthusiasts?
Martin: I don’t think there’s a magic bullet. It’s like any brand out there. For people to embrace you, they have to feel you’re authentic… We’re not claiming to be something we’re not and people will see that and feel that.