Outdoor and Fitness Brands Ripe for Investment

10.19.17 / Diana Fryc

Last month, we shared which food and beverage brands have potential to make it big. These brands have that something special, but have not quite made it “big.” This month, we’re going to do the same thing, but focusing on another category we work with – outdoor and fitness.

Let’s face it: if you eat healthy, you likely play healthy too. It is the reason why Retail Voodoo works in the intersection of outdoor, better-for-you food and beverage, and health and wellness brands. You’re not likely going to see a runner’s pantry filled with Cheezy Puffs and soda. On the flip side, healthy foods don’t typically sit on the shelves of couch potatoes and slackers. Ask the next teenager you see what they snacked on the last time they played a marathon session of their favorite first-person shooter game. Pretty sure Brad’s Kale Chips isn’t on the list.

The following brands make active lives fun, easy, and approachable. They don’t make you feel like you need to be scaling the Alps or running ultra-marathons to be healthy. They’re not just cool products, no. Each one addresses an unmet need in the market and has the potential to make it big. With private equity and the right strategic help, these brands can really shake up the outdoor and fitness industry.

Kammok

I was immediately fascinated with this brand when I first saw them in the back tents of Outdoor Retailer a few years back. Their Kangaroo logo grabbed my attention and differentiated them in the category. Their products easily stuff into a pouch-like pocket – making a memorable brand association. Their hammocks are made from lightweight stuffable material and python straps – but that’s not what makes them stand out to me as a leader in the industry.

Growing up, my family lugged around a heavy, military-grade canvas hammock when we camped. It required a degree in engineering to figure out where to hang it and the strength of an ox to actually tie those 100-ton ropes in a way that not only held us in the tree but didn’t destroy the tree in the process. But during my first camping trip using the Kammok hammock, I noticed a fascination by the adults at not only the ease of use, but also the joy and glee of this “cool swingy thing” that the kids could nap and relax in. It’s now a necessity for every future outdoor trip. If we go too long without an adventure, I end up strapping it up on our porch for an extended weekend of relaxing, where it brings the memories of camping home in the few short minutes it takes to set up.

This brand has what it takes to grow so much bigger then it currently is. The versatility and portability of their products meet a gaping need in the marketplace. The ease-of-use makes them approachable to the average Joe and high-tech aspects make it desirable to the avid adventurer. The brand’s rock-solid mission, money-back guarantee, and superior quality make it prime for take off.

Tentsile

This brand takes camping to a new level – literally. When I look at these suspended tents, I immediately think tree forts. If you look at their website, you see amazing images of multiple tents stacked like apartments in the trees, allowing groups of people to share sleeping quarters in the sky, sort of like Ewoks or the creatures in Avatar.

So, let’s talk comfort. Back in my backpacking days (pre-kids), I would have loved this option mostly because no matter how amazing the pad, sleeping on the hard ground after a long hike sometimes just didn’t cut it. I imagine the feeling of being suspended in the trees without the rocks and bumps as near nirvana. I could see my kids finding these fun sleeping quarters incentive to go camping and hiking with great frequency as well.

Again, this brand looks really cool, but it also solves one of the biggest issues with camping: sleeping on the cold, hard ground. It eliminates the need to find a flat surface, opening the world up to all sorts of adventures and possibilities. When you’re no longer confined to a flat space on the ground, the options are virtually limitless. If this brand gets a bit of strategic help, it can easily become a household name.

Tiger Tail

Every active person I know has been to a physical therapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor to either fix an injury or correct a problem. Sometimes they just need general relief from their activities or life stress. This use-at-home, complete set of massage tools is easy to understand and not terribly expensive. It enables people to self-treat in the comfort of their own homes and on their own schedules.

As I’ve been watching this brand navigate a very convoluted market, it reminds me lot of compression socks and how those have become the go-to product for athletes and exercise fans. It fills a hole by bringing affordability and convenience into the marketplace. Physical therapy becomes less daunting and scary. Athletes and busy-bodies alike enjoy feeling empowered and independent (especially when something is out of their control) – Tiger Tail provides just that. It won’t be too long before everyone and their sister needs to have a set of these tools to help with body recovery when they can’t get to a therapist.

Oiselle

I’ve been following this Northwest brand since I met the founder on the floor of Outdoor Retailer a few years back. This brand has much stronger positioning than the others I’ve mentioned. They anchor themselves in sisterhood first, then a running brand second. The brand focuses on the needs of women athletes – but not in a dainty, “this is the ‘girls’ version of a masculine brand” way. However, despite their strong positioning, they fail to actively leverage it in their communication. This brand has the legs to compete heavily against the lululemons of the world. It’s almost there – it just needs that extra push.

Outdoor and fitness brands often suffer with brand positioning. They want to be coolest, hard-core-est, intense-est, or planet-loving-est brand in the market. Everybody looks, feels, and sounds the same in this industry and newer, smaller brands all default to the same positioning. But this strategy feels easy, safe, and ultimately, not ownable. Not every brand can be an Arcteryx or Leatherman, nor should they be. In order to truly stand out, brands need to not only make category-defining products – they need to stand out from the crowd in a meaningful way.

All of the brands highlighted here have fallen into the trap of buying into the default position – and they don’t need to. Their products are awesome and unique. The brands should take a stand and own it. To be clear, I’m not saying they shouldn’t feel like an outdoor or fitness brand and go completely off-track. But I am saying those are table stakes. Look to brands like Patagonia who started with table stakes and then went one step further to create something that people want to be a part of (or don’t). From there, with a little brand adjustment and maybe additional capital infusion, I see significant growth potential for these brands.

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