When Athleta was looking for a way to retool its in-store strategy for 2019, the Gap Inc.-owned fitness fashion company decided to move to an experiential wellness focus, resulting in a yearlong, 13-store event series called the Wellness Collective. At the next two-hour event on May 11, about 40 attendees at each participating store will tackle DIY plant-based face masks, attend crystal workshops and experience nature-inspired sound baths. Tickets cost $78 ($85 with fees), and all sales go to Athleta.
“Fitness is one aspect of our woman’s and girl’s full lifestyle, and we are a highly technical apparel brand, but we also think about how moments like self-care, meditation, beauty, travel and career can be incorporated. When we think of our stores, we think of them as community hubs, and we see this as an evolution of what can happen there,” said Nancy Green, president and CEO of Athleta.
At the Athleta events, which kicked off in late March and were created via a custom media partnership with editorial wellness website Well+Good, customers receive a $100 gift card (which can be used towards leggings or any Athleta merchandise). The point isn’t conversion or upping a shopper’s basket size, said Green. Instead, it is about becoming more in line with the mammoth that is the wellness movement — a global industry that is now valued at $4.2 trillion, according to the Global Wellness Institute.
Athleta is not the only fitness brand rejiggering its approach to be more wellness-centric. Online workout platform Obé has turned to events and a video content series with wellness experts, for its part, and Degree, best known for being the go-to deodorant for sports aficionados, has recently partnered with wellness and health index Blue Zones to promote “movement,” not exercise.
“We want to focus on wellness and incorporating natural movement into one’s daily routine,” said Lucy Attley, director of marketing for Degree. “We know this is a discussion our customers are having, so we see ourselves as having that platform.” For Degree, its May partnership with Blue Zones facilitated the revamp of editorial content on DegreeDeodorant.com and its newly merged social channels to focus on both men’s and women’s product.
Finding the right partners has proven to be key for Athleta, Obé and Degree, as they hope to establish their authority in wellness and not necessarily be seen as only performance-oriented.
Athleta is widely being regarded as the Gap’s Hail Mary, now that Old Navy is spinning off. It saw comparable sales increase by nearly 30% in the last two years, and with fellow elevated brand Intermix, Athleta accounted for 18% of Gap’s 2018 revenue. However, newcomers like Outdoor Voices have created buzzy competition for millennial and Gen-Z shoppers, by not lying squarely in the fitness space, but instead blurring the lines between wellness and lifestyle.
To develop the Wellness Collective series, Athleta and Well+Good surveyed their two audiences to develop the event content. The companies have worked together since 2013 — largely in a branded content capacity — but in 2019, they created a custom media partnership that is unlike anything either party has done before, said Alexia Brue, Well+Good co-founder and CEO. It involved a seven-figure investment from Athleta.
Nearly 1,600 members responded to the Athleta and Well+Good questionnaire, which was shared through email and social media. The topics garnering the most interest from respondents were skin care, in which 78% expressed interest, and plant-based nutrition (35% of respondents were eager to learn more). The latter prompted a May event in New York City featuring a discussion with Trinity Mouzon Wofford, founder of ingestible beauty brand Golde.
Well+Good has had its own event series since October 2017, which consists of monthly talks (costing attendees $35 and accommodating 120 visitors) and a more exclusive retreat experience that ranges in price from $1,400 to $3,400. But Brue explained that the company saw space for something that fell in the middle, which is why the Athleta partnership made sense.
“This kind of series is accessible for women to fit into their everyday lives, and it’s largely unavailable. The in-store wellness experience hasn’t been innovated on beyond taking a fitness class in a store,” said Brue. “We are bringing the kind of experts and experiences that you find in more exclusive or immersive retreats to retail.”
Adam Ochman, svp of creative and strategy at Well+Good, said thus far, all events have sold out. And Green reported that attendees are asking to elongate the sessions from two hours to three.
Year-old fitness streaming service Obé is updating its event and content, as well. In conjunction with its regular workout videos, which start at $27 a month, the company has started upping its Coffee Talks video interview series with wellness experts like Lo Bosworth, founder of women’s personal-care and ingestibles brand Love Wellness, and the team at Sakara Life. This year, the company is on track to create about 24 Coffee Talk segments (30% of its audience watches these videos), whereas in 2018, the company did five, said Obé co-founder and co-CEO Ashley Mills.
“We knew our community was showing up and working out with us, but we wanted to keep them continually engaged with lifestyle content,” said Mills, who reported that the average Obé member does nearly 11 classes per month and that its top 20% of users take 44 classes per month. Fellow co-founder and co-CEO Mark Mullett said the company is hoping to create an in-house content team of potentially three members this year to make the series weekly.
Athleta and Well+Good’s partnership also moves the apparel company further into the online content space: Though all post-event content is living on WellandGood.com for now (and is developed by the Well+Good editorial team), Green said Athleta is planning to create its own wellness section on Athleta.Gap.com. That will give its customers 24-hour access to wellness-oriented editorial content versus a pure e-commerce experience. Through its custom media partnership, Well+Good will also be working with Athleta to co-create its monthly catalogs beginning in September to feature similar content.
The two companies will be conducting another, larger-scale survey in August to further ideate on its events and content. “We see ourselves as being a leader in this conversation, so we want all of this information to come from us in a natural way,” said Green.