Nike ramps up connected fitness to take on Under Armour, Adidas

By Jonah Comstock
NikeTrainingClub The Nike Training Club app

Since Under Armour created its Connected Fitness platform with three major fitness app acquisitions, it has thrown down the gauntlet when it comes to owning online engagement and sales. Adidas made it clear in the summer, with its $240 million acquisition of Runtastic, that it was willing to play Under Armour's game.

But what about Nike, the company that was the original leader in the connected fitness space? Nike appeared to be throwing in the towel with its FuelBand wearable last year when it laid off half the engineering staff in April 2014 and subsequently launched a device-free Nike+ Fuel app in February.

According to a report in Marketing Magazine, Nike is set to ramp up its online efforts to compete with Under Armour and Adidas. The apparel brand has pledged to increase online sales by a factor of seven over the next five years, from $1 billion in 2015 to $7 billion by 2020. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has set a goal of $7.5 billion by 2018.

Some of the steps Nike plans to take to drive these sales don't have much to do with connected fitness. The company plans to put an emphasis on customization and personalization of products purchased online, including a foray into 3D-printing via a partnership with DreamWorks. It also plans to introduce new efforts to market to women.

But the company also sees the value of connected fitness and the communities it creates. Brand president Trevor Edwards told Marketing Magazine that the company will emphasize its Nike Training Club personal training app for runners. Using data from the app, they'll be able to separate out runners who have started to fall off the workout wagon and market to them accordingly.

"So if we break it down, it's runners who just run every single day or runners who have started and maybe trailed off or runners who are training for an event," President for Global Categories Jayne Martin told the magazine. "So we can tailor our messages and gear up opportunities against each one of those segments, so really closing the loop and doing that on a consistent basis, which I think drives back into that idea of repeat."

In keeping with the company's recent moves on FuelBand, the company downplayed the importance of hardware, calling it "one dimension" of the larger digital landscape, and one they could stay involved in via their longstanding partnership with Apple.