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Cross-device approach underscores sports brands' success with wearables

Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are leading the pack in wearables with products that sell wrist devices in conjunction with mobile and desktop products. With the increased interest in cross-screen marketing, the brands are laying the groundwork for future wearable initiatives in other sectors.

Over the past year, wearables have generated quite a bit of buzz in the marketing industry as the next big thing in mobile. One of the reasons why sports brands have been some of the first to develop wearable initiatives is because the devices give consumers an incentive to interact across all devices instead of focusing solely on the wrist gadget.

?For the short term, creating natural extensions of the brand such as the Nike Fuel Band that integrates with the larger portfolio of products is showing the greatest return to date,? said Tom Edwards, vice president of digital strategy at The Marketing Arm, Dallas.

?It's really an ?and? versus ?or? scenario,? he said. ?There will be opportunities for brands to create their own branded devices that interface with other smart devices such as how the Fuel Band integrates with iOS to visualize the data and enrich the experience with products like Google Glass.?

Wear on mobile
As the mobile market matures, marketers are increasingly looking beyond the smartphone and tablet for marketing opportunities as manufacturers look to one-up each other with the next big mobile trend.

While Google and Samsung are courting brands and marketers with Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch, the sports brands are going a different route with developing their own stand-alone gadgets that overlay with existing technology.

For example, sports gear company Under Armour recently acquired mobile fitness tracking app MapMyFitness in a move to bolster its own mobile and wearable initiatives (see story).

The goal with the acquisition is to give Under Armour the technology and resources needed to help beef up its line of offerings to consumers. 

The reason why many of these sports brands are getting a leg-up with wearables compared to other verticals is because of their focus on utility.

Additionally, wrist wearables and smart watches seem to be attracting more consumer interest than glasses or other forms of wearables.

In fact, Forrester Research put out a study earlier this year that found that 21.6 percent of consumers would be open to wearing a device as either a pair of eyeglasses or contacts. Of these consumers, 28 percent wanted the device to work on their wrist and 18 percent wanted the device to be clipped to a shoe (see story). 

Integrated products
Nike and other sports brands are differentiating their wearable initiatives with products that fit into a bigger portfolio of digital tools.

For instance, Nike?s popular Nike+ Fuelband product uses a branded wrist device to sync up with a mobile app that tracks an athlete?s performance.

Additionally, Adidas? miCoach product includes a Web site, mobile app and smart watch that act as a virtual coach in helping consumers achieve their health goals.

?Sports brands have a natural extension of their physical products with mobile and wearable products,? Mr. Edwards said.

?This creates a physical to digital connection that offers users a new, creative way to track and motivate themselves beyond the normal activity,? he said.

Social is also playing a key role in the success of sports brands with wearables so far. Tying in social elements to let consumers share their fitness progress with friends and family members encourages consumers to use a whole line of products across desktops, mobile devices and wrist gadgets.

While these sports brands are marketing wearables as their own branded devices, many are layering their brand onto existent technology and are using cross-device approaches to win over athletes that already use a fitness tracking app.

?The sport brands are developing wearable technology but leveraging existing systems like those from TomTom, Mio and Garmin,? said Jonathan Greene, managing director of mobile and social platforms at R/GA, New York.

?Adding your brand on top of the technology does not necessarily lead to success or adoption, as many athletes are already tracking progress and would need a compelling reason to switch,? he said.

Translating the success
Outside of sports brands, many of the other brands experimenting with wearables and Google Glass are using the technology for utility-driven campaigns.

For example, paint brand Sherwin Williams developed a Google Glass app earlier this year to help consumers find and discover paint colors (see story).

Fidelity Insurance has also developed an app that lets consumers view a hands-free display of quotes and stock indexes. 

Although wearables seem to be the newest shiny toy that marketers are chasing, it is a type of device that relies heavily on creating a value for consumers that is not already available from other devices.

For example, big box retailers such as Walmart and Target could also tap into wearables as long as the technology helps solve an issue that cannot be met otherwise.

?In terms of sports brands, you can?t really see those types of devices going to other verticals yet,? said London-based Josh flood, senior analyst at ABI Research. ?It?s more in terms of something that if you look at the overall wearable market.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York