As the fitness category continues to face ups and downs, as it reconciles the impacts of Covid-19, Athleta and Obé Fitness are partnering to drive the health of both brands.
Obé is one of several virtual workout companies that experienced a Covid-19 boom. But unlike its Peloton or Mirror counterparts, which sell equipment for over $1,000, Obé equipment is $15-$25. What’s more, its digital content is only $27 a month. But since 2020, the 3-year-old company has sought to invigorate its workout offerings to cultivate a distinct lifestyle for its community and separate itself from the herd. In March 2020, Obé partnered with Gap-owned Athleta for an in-person retreat. Then, Obé added themed live workouts around HBO Max content and amplified its Halloween-themed classes in October 2020. Obé has seen its Athleta partnership as a source of ongoing enrichment. Athleta even invested in Obé in August during a $15 million Series A fundraising round — it marked Athleta’s first-ever investment in the home fitness space. Now, the two brands have come together on an apparel collaboration, another first for Athleta.
“In our current marketplace, we’re talking about ‘hybrid’ [and asking ourselves] what a post-Covid-19 world looks like. The pairing of our two companies and our shared mission allows us to reach people wherever they are,” said Mark Mullett, co-founder and co-CEO of Obé.
The initial collaboration features a simple black pair of leggings and a sports bra with the Athleta and Obé logos. The reason for this was to launch an evergreen assortment, ahead of creating limited-edition or more fanciful fashion. Obé has previously collaborated with Bala Bangles, athletic apparel brand Terez and even Colgate.
Ultimately, the Obé and Athleta brands are attempting to form a more expansive ecosystem, with various integrations and overlaps. Athleta added Obé into its rewards program this year by offering its exclusive express workout videos to shoppers and, once again, hosting in-person events in Athleta stores. According to Kim Waldmann, chief digital officer at Athleta, over 50% of Athleta sales come through people in its loyalty program; members spend 200% more than non-loyalty customers. Athleta has publicly stated that it reached $1 billion in annual sales in 2020, and it intends to achieve $2 billion in sales by 2023.
“Getting more people into our awards programs, experiencing Obe and driving more loyalty and participation, and spreading [awareness of the brand via] word-of-mouth is a key part of how we’re going to grow the business,” said Waldmann.
Obé declined to comment on its current membership size or revenue growth. According to Glossy’s previous reporting, Obé saw member increases of 80% month-over-month between March 2020 and May 2020, owen to the coronavirus keeping people at home. That leveled to 30% month-over-month growth from May 2020 to Oct. 2020. According to Bloomberg, the latest funding round valued Obé at $190 million.
Of course, the idea of creating a fitness-lifestyle-ecosystem is not a new approach. And, indeed, the biggest obstacle is that people generally do not like to work out. Previously, praised brands like Outdoor Voices faced their fair share of woes, often due to poor management and controversies. Meanwhile, Peloton’s stock has dropped from an all-time high of $167 in January 2021 to $44 currently. Fitness mirror company Mirror was notably bought for $500 million by Lululemon in June 2020. In September, Mirror’s CEO stepped down just as Wall Street analysts pushed for more transparency around its business performance. Mullett said that one of Obé’s unique strengths is its plethora of bite-sized content, like 10-minute videos, that are more realistic for people to need, want and actually do.
Ashley Mills, co-founder and co-CEO of Obé, said Athleta and Obé will add to their product and brand collaborations throughout 2022. When it announced its latest funding round, Obé said it would use part of the funding to add classes beyond its core cardio, strength and yoga offerings. It added workouts requiring heavier pieces of equipment in November and cycling in September. Mullett said there would also be more in-person events and retail product launches with Athleta. The latter will include styles featuring creative logo usage and more colors.
“The idea of being able to access Obé everywhere was one of the key reasons why we were excited to have this strategic partnership. Their values of democratizing the premium fitness experience aligned with [Athleta’s] around community and inclusivity,” said Waldmann.