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Under Armour and Sports Authority link fitness tracking and customer loyalty

Sports Authority has long been a big distributor of Under Armour gear, but the relationship between retailer and sports apparel brand just got deeper as the retailer linked its loyalty program with the Baltimore sports apparel brand’s fitness tracking applications.
Sports Authority has long been a big distributor of Under Armour gear, but the relationship between retailer and sports apparel brand just got deeper as the retailer linked its loyalty program with the Baltimore sports apparel brand’s fitness tracking applications. (MONICA LOPOSSAY / Baltimore Sun)

Sports Authority has long been a big distributor of Under Armour gear, but the relationship between retailer and sports apparel brand just got deeper.

In a new agreement, the retailer has linked its loyalty program, The League, to one of the Baltimore-based sports apparel brand's health and fitness tracking applications, MapMyFitness. The idea is to better understand customers' habits and offer rewards for meeting fitness goals and healthy living, which in turn allows for targeted marketing and increased sales.

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"Sports Authority is definitely ahead of the industry in terms of app integration and in how they are approaching the digital space," said Warren Kay, Under Armour vice president of advertising. "This launch is an industry leading one for them in terms of sports apparel retailers embracing digital. This is one of the more forward leading implementation's I've seen."

Officials of the privately held, Colorado-based sporting goods chain could not be reached Monday.

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To kick off the arrangement, Sports Authority and MapMyFitness have launched the month-long "Back on Track" challenge. Through Oct. 16, customers who link their loyalty and fitness tracking accounts can compete for Sports Authority gift cards and prizes by logging three workouts or 10 miles per week on fitness tracking devices.

As of Monday, more than 72,000 people, ages 14 and up, had signed up. Though the challenge is short-term, customers will be able to earn points for fitness activities on a continuing basis.

"It's a win for the consumer and the industry," said Ronald Oswalt, chief operating officer and founder of SportsMarketingExperts.com.

Under Armour first got into the fast-emerging fitness technology market in late 2013 when it acquired MapMyFitness, creator of the MapMyRun and MapMyRide mobile applications and websites, for $150 million. The brand has since acquired additional fitness app companies and built what it calls the world's largest online health and fitness community.

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Before being acquired by Under Armour, MapMyFitness had a relationship with Sports Authority, which would promote its products to MapMyFitness users.

"There was a very nice fit between their customers and our users, for obvious reasons," Kay said.

But integrating each app's data, an arrangement Kay said is done after receiving the consumer's consent, took the arrangement to another level. Teaming up helps both the brand and the retailer, by allowing each to learn more about customers through shared data than they would otherwise, he said.

"We started talking to Sports Authority about other ways we could work together, and their desire to know more about their consumer base," he said. "They know how many shoes or baseball bats they buy, but they don't know how they use that equipment. MapMyFitness knows how equipment is being used, but they don't know about the purchasing of it."

Sports Authority has roughly 460 stores across the country and annual sales estimated at around $3.7 billion.

Working to promote healthier lifestyles benefits Under Armour indirectly as well as directly, Kay said.

"If someone walks into Sports Authority, there's a good chance they'll buy Under Armour gear," he said.

Partnerships between retailers and manufacturers, some more successful than others, are nothing new, and rewards programs have taken many forms. But technology has added a new dimension, said Auburn Bell, an affiliate professor of marketing at Loyola University Maryland.

Under Armour, a relatively new player on the fitness tracking technology front, still is exploring ways to use that technology, he said.

"They're sharing customer information across a couple of different platforms, which is going to let both know about the wants and needs and how customers are using their goods and what's important to them," Bell said. "It's a classic manufacturer/retail partnership or cooperative marketing, but juiced up on steroids in terms of having that technology component, to better mine that data and use it in different ways."

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