Reebok might not be “in the championship finals” of sports brands but new US marketing chief, David Oksman, believes the brand is the industry’s best kept secret and its strategy - backing sporting movements such as CrossFit - is one which will see it become a formidable force in the coming years.
“We are on the path to being transformed. It’s not like we’re in the finals of the championship game. But we are primed in terms of being the destination for people who want to use fitness to be their best selves,” Oksman, who has been in the marketing director role for two months, told The Drum.
Reebok is almost half way through a 10-year deal it inked with CrossFit, a high intensity work out regime which was originally built for police academies, the military and other professional athletes.
Much like the Zumba movement, gyms can pay a $3,000 annual licence fee to become an affiliate and use the CrossFit name while trainers pay $1,000 to become certified. It has grown globally since its 2000 launch, and having established itself in America, is filtering across Europe and Asia.
Reebok’s association has firmed its positioning as a ‘fitness brand’ as opposed to sporting, and as such its competitor set has changed.
“We know the likes of Lululemon [a yoga clothing brand] do fitness well. For Reebok the positioning is about fitness and the Nikes and Under Armours are much more about sport,” he said.
“Of course we’re going to look at what they do because they play in the fitness space, but they’re positioning is much more about [winning]. Just Do It is about winning.”
However, the financial rewards are yet to be reaped. Adidas – which purchased Reekbok for £2.9bn in 2005 – was forced to write off £231m from the business in 2013 and slash its 2015 profits forecast by a third.
“Potentially this hasn’t been the best year,” revealed Oksman. “”But the future is exceptionally bright for us. I feel like especially in the US we’re the best kept secret in the industry.”
Oksman admitted that the brand “hasn’t really told anybody” about its relationship with CrossFit, which includes sponsorship of the CrossFit Games on ESPN, and co-branding on CrossFit outlets.
“People see the relationship with CrossFit but they don’t really know about the depth of the brand and the values we really want to bring to tough fitness and what it can bring to your life.”
Asked if a brand campaign to communicate its partnership with the fitness craze is on the horizon, Oksman said coyly: “There is a lot of opportunity to bring the message much more widely. Like I said…it’s one of the best kept secrets in the industry.”
On the marketing strategy, Oksman said being “disruptive” is key and the brand is trying to be braver and bolder in its communications.
He cited the Reebok Bacon initiative – its own brand of additive-free uncured bacon – and the Human Delivery Service – where pairs of trainers were delivered by people running across a city – as campaigns which he felt told the brand story in a new way.
Unwilling to speak widely on how wearables technology fits in Reebok's plans – no doubt a key area of interest given Nike’s investment in the FuelBand – Oksman did say that “as a facilitator to help people become their best self, wearable technology is always going to be interesting for any brand in our space.”
He added that apps which connect people with fitness, such as BurnThis, are also “really exciting” for him as he plans the road-map for the coming years.
“We have to surprise and delight. In some ways we’re a challenger brand and we have to be innovative to break through in the US market. We’re not number one in the market place.
“We have to understand our consumer more, we have to be more innovative, cut through, because we’re going through our own transformation to become our best self.”