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SBD Global/April 3, 2014/Finance

Reebok Hopes 10-Year Link Up With CrossFit Will Bulk Up Bottom Line

For Reebok, CrossFit "could provide much-needed salvation," according to Chris Bryant of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The sportswear brand, owned by adidas since '06, makes CrossFit-badged clothing "as part of a broader alliance with the fashionable fitness movement." The partnership, struck as Reebok struggled to justify the $3.8B adidas had paid for it, "amounts to something of a tightrope act." Reebok "has had to avoid alienating fitness fans drawn to CrossFit’s edgy, spartan image, while co-existing with a network of entrepreneurs who have driven CrossFit’s rapid expansion." It seems "to be working so far." Reebok VP of Fitness and Training Chris Froio: “We’ve seen this brand turn the corner.” Reebok "certainly needed a lift." Footwear sales "have lagged behind those of Nike." There have been "financial irregularities in Reebok’s India business." It had to take a €265M writedown a year ago. Amid these disappointments, Reebok "decided to reposition itself as a 'fitness' brand, rather than associating itself with conventional professional sport." In '10 Reebok agreed to a 10-year partnership with CrossFit worth an unspecified sum. It "includes sponsorship of the CrossFit Games." The brand also "has to make sure that it does not spoil CrossFit’s underground vibe." Greg Glassman, who developed the fitness concept in '95 in California, "has rejected overtures from private equity to take over the sport" (FT, 4/2).
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