Based in Canton, Mass., Reebok International Ltd. is well known as a leading worldwide designer, marketer and distributor of fitness and lifestyle footwear, apparel and equipment. At the same time, the company has an active licensing program that dates back to the 1990s, which it uses as a strategic tool to help Reebok become the world’s leading fitness lifestyle brand.
“Through our products and partnerships, we want to be there for our consumers, to encourage them to move, and to share our passion for fitness,” Head of Licensing Linne Kimball says.
Ready to Move
A subsidiary of Adidas, the company operates under the multiple divisions of the Reebok brand, Reebok-CCM Hockey and the Sports Licensed Division. Reebok strives to be a pioneer in the sporting goods industry by developing products, technologies and programming that helps the fitness consumer stay fit through everything from training, running and walking to dance, yoga and aerobics.
The company has a strong fitness heritage that dates back to step aerobics in the 1980s. Realizing its long-standing strength in the industry, its Reebok Classics line allows the company to leverage the brand’s fitness heritage and roots in the sports lifestyle market.
Today, Reebok is the exclusive brand partner of CrossFit and sponsor of the Reebok CrossFit Games, having established itself as the footwear and apparel brand of choice in the CrossFit community. It is also the official title sponsor of the Reebok Spartan Race. Involvement in these events is part of Reebok’s strategy to be engaged in some of the latest trends in fitness, namely CrossFit and obstacle racing.
Another fitness partnership for Reebok is its relationship with Les Mills, the largest fitness programming company in the world. Les Mills created popular trademarked gym classes such as BodyPump, BodyCombat and Grit. As part of the partnership, Les Mills instructors around the world are outfitted in Reebok footwear and apparel.
Ultimately, the company understands the need for the human body to move. “We work to create, market and offer products and experiences that help people engage in a fitness lifestyle and reach their potential through fitness,” Kimball says.
As for its licensing efforts, Reebok’s long-standing licensing program is a critical part of Reebok’s mission. The company holds its licensing program to high standards, with strict social and environmental compliance standards for all factories, product safety standards and a multi-stage approval process for products, packaging and any use of trademarks.
“Our implementation of Brand Comply software in 2012 has streamlined and automated our processes and record keeping, solidifying our licensing program as best in class,” Kimball says.
Currently, Reebok’s global portfolio consists of more than 20 partners in categories ranging from hard goods to accessories to a number of specialty apparel businesses. The brand is also licensed to a small number of high-end, premium fitness clubs in key global locations. The company integrates these “Reebok Sports Clubs” as key venues for brand initiatives and PR events, in addition to the brand-enhancing experience these clubs offer to tens of thousands of members.
“Our licensing strategy at Reebok is simple,” Kimball says. “We want to extend the brand into categories that support and accelerate our mission. Our quest to become the world’s No. 1 fitness brand demands our participation in categories that fall outside of our traditional core competencies in footwear and apparel, and licensing is a great way to achieve this.”
Reebok’s philosophy in licensed products is no different than that of its core products. The company’s goal is to create exceptional products and experiences for consumers that promote a fitness lifestyle. Reebok looks for creativity and innovation among its licensees, just as it does from internal designers and developers.
“To accomplish this, we immerse our licensees in Reebok’s corporate strategy and events as if they were Reebok employees,” Kimball says. “The more transparent we are with our partners, the more capable they become of translating our DNA to their respective areas of expertise. The more they personally live and feel our fitness mission, the more effectively they can present our brand to retail.”
Often times, Reebok licensees visit the company’s headquarters and participate in a day of fitness, such as functional fitness, yoga, a run around campus or facing elements of a Spartan Race.
Kimball says the licensed category that strikes closest to its core mission is fitness equipment, a key element of Reebok’s strategy. Working with its partners, ICON Health and Fitness and RFE International, Reebok offers a range of high-quality cardiovascular equipment and accessories around the globe.
Throughout its licensing portfolio, Reebok has some partnerships that have existed for years and others that are relatively new. An example of an ongoing partnership is for men’s big and tall athletic apparel at Destination XL via its Streetwear Inc. licensee. Newer partners include relationships with Time Network Inc. and FGX International. Time Network recently launched a new collection of fitness/lifestyle timepieces, and FGX International created a global offering of Reebok performance and lifestyle eyewear in both the optical and sun categories.
In addition, the company has a strong relationship with Samsonite, the industry leader in luggage and bags. “Samsonite is our U.S. partner for sports bags,” Kimball says.
Reebok also works with F&T Apparel, its kids apparel partner in the United States, and with Warson Group for occupational footwear. This includes a line of U.S.-manufactured military boots. In addition, the company partners with Austin Adventures to offer what it calls “Fitness Vacations.”
Reebok will look to continue bringing forth its own strong, internally developed programs as it simultaneously attempts to continue running a strong licensing program. It will remain active and engaged in the licensing industry through memberships with the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) and the Society of Product Licensors Committed to Excellence (SPLiCE). And it will continue to press forward with its mission.
“Our strategy is not to dramatically increase the number of licensees in our portfolio,” Kimball says. “But we do have a pipeline of exciting new partnerships that will be announced over the coming year.”