‘We look to those as growth levers’: How fitness start-up Obé is using brand partnerships to boost awareness

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Finding creative ways to acquire new customers is paramount for new companies and fitness start-up Obé is betting on partnerships with endemic brands (like athletic clothing brand Athleta and weight loss company WW) and non-endemic brands (Samsung and HBO Max) to do so. 

“You can play the Facebook and Instagram game and, obviously, we do, but what’s more interesting for us is marketing partnerships,” said Ashley Mills, co-founder and co-CEO of Obé. “We look to those as growth levers and opportunities for us.”

Founded in 2018, the fitness company offers virtual on-demand classes like pilates and yoga for a $27 a month subscription. It’s unclear how many subscribers Obé has as the company declined to disclose the figure. This past spring, with the surge in demand for online workout classes due to the coronavirus pandemic, Obé saw membership grow 80% month-over-month from March to May. Since then, membership growth has evened out to 30% month-over-month, according to the company.

Even with the increased demand for online classes, Obé has continued to build out its partnership strategy to bolster its growth. As previously reported by Glossy, the company’s partnership with HBO Max, which kicked off earlier this summer around the streaming platform’s launch, played a part helping Obé turn its classes into must-see events with custom Sex and the City, Game of Thrones, Euphoria and Sesame Street themed classes for members. Doing so helped increase awareness of the new streaming platform as well as Obé, according to the company.  

On-demand workouts at home is an increasingly competitive category. Obé, co-founded by Mark Mullett and Mills, is one of a number of at-home fitness companies with virtual classes (see: Peloton, Mirror, etc.) that have cropped up in recent years. The company’s differentiation approach to the burgeoning fitness media landscape is to be “where entertainment meets fitness,” said Mills. “We dive into lifestyle in a bigger way and have fitness classes with entertainers who entertain you.” 

Using partnerships with other brands, especially endemic ones like Athleta and WW, likely helps boost the perception of Obé as a lifestyle fitness brand as well as help to increase subscribers. 

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By partnering with Athleta, for example, Obé is able to reach customers who shop the brand and offer deals to get them to try classes out. Customers who do will likely notice that Obé instructors are outfitted in Athleta gear. At the same time, Obé customers who don’t shop at Athleta are then introduced to the brand. As for WW, Obé has been integrated into WW’s “Wellness Wins” program where members of WW who meet goals can redeem free Obé classes for doing so. 

“Partnerships are a much more creative way to introduce your brand to new customers,” said Nik Sharma, CEO of Sharma Brands and direct-to-consumer brand strategist. “It’s beneficial to both parties. Unlike paid advertising, where you’re spending money to get new customers and putting up something on Facebook or Instagram that’s like, ‘Come buy us,’ partnerships allow you to create new products to get new customers in intuitive ways.” 

That said, using partnerships with other brands to help boost awareness as well as subscriptions is just one part of the company’s marketing strategy. Aside from Facebook and Instagram ads, the company has tested new channels like CTV, Snapchat, TikTok and linear TV in recent months. Obé spent $562,000 on media placements during the first six months of 2020, per Kantar’s data; that figure does not include what Obé spent on social media ads as Kantar doesn’t track social spending. 

The fitness company isn’t alone in trying to use a partnership strategy to acquire new customers. Disaster emergency kit company Judy recently partnered with bathroom fragrant Poo-Pourri on new kits — which have Poo-Pourri, hand-sanitizer, hand wipes, a whistle and a glow stick — to help both companies acquire new customers, per Sharma who is an advisor to both brands. 

“[The strategy] is not super standard,” said Sharma. “But it allows for cross audience pollination and can increase customer lifetime value.”

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