New Balance should acquire RunKeeper

New Ballance Runkeeper challenge

These are the challenging times for sports clothing and accessories companies. Making shoes and other sports equipment doesn’t come with high margins as it used to. There are some exceptions, but competition from the East isn’t sleeping. These days, sneakers with a price tag north of $100 must┬ádeliver something more than comfort.

On the other hand, capacities are already full. It is getting harder and harder to convince people they need yet another pair of shoes. So it’s natural that sports clothing companies are looking beyond their traditional markets for growth.

These days, sneakers with a price tag north of $100 must┬ádeliver something more than comfort.Mentioned competition from the East is getting ready to expand to new markets, and that means the Western hemisphere. Their product range seems already decent enough to tackle on the European and American competition. Take a look at what Chinese fitness company Li Ning is doing – they’ve recently launched smart shoes in partnership with fast-growing smartphone maker, Xiaomi. This kind of product still doesn’t exist on the West.

Nike was one of the pioneers with its FuelBand wrist band, and was followed by Adidas with a similar offering. But that’s not enough. These “guys” want to build platforms rather than “just” physical products. And by doing so, make their brands that much more powerful in the eyes of consumers and sports enthusiasts all around the world.

Under Armour was one of the first companies to realize this, and has pursued this strategy with a series of acquisition, scooping-up MapMyFitness, Endomondo, MyFitnessPal and Gritness along the way. Adidas has followed suit with acquisition of Austria-based Runtastic.

Now, we think New Balance should do the same and acquire Fitness Keeper, the company behind the popular Runkeeper fitness tracking app.

It’s obvious that something’s “in the air” between Fitness Keeper and New Balance.The two parties have already worked together in the past: in March, Runkeeper and New Balance launched the Fresh Foam Zante Challenge to encourage users to run six times in 21 days. In return, the contest offered 50 pairs of free Fresh Foam Zantes. In June, Runkeeper announced integration with the MyNB loyalty program and app, offering online shopping reward certificates, race registrations and more to those who opt to connect Runkeeper with MyNB.

Finally, a few days ago the New Balance MyNB Falmouth Challenge has been launched, inviting users to track seven running or walking activities and become a MyNB member, to “score big with New Balance.”

It’s obvious that something’s “in the air” between Fitness Keeper and New Balance. And given the direction the industry is moving to, it would be foolish for New Balance to miss on the opportunity to acquire the Runkeeper developer. They have a large, active community that could help NB reach new highs, all while positioning NB products as one of the best choices for all kinds of sports. Sounds like a plan, don’t you think?