Whether they make products worn on the face, feet, chest or wrist, wearable technology companies are finding sponsorship to be a good fit.  

The rapidly growing category includes smart glasses (Google Glass, etc.), personal fitness trackers (Fitbit, Jawbone, etc.), apparel (Ralph Lauren, etc.), and other products consumers can use to monitor and track personal activity such as steps walked, calories burned and hours slept. Users access the data through a smartphone, tablet or the device itself.

Credit Suisse predicts the market for wearable technology will increase tenfold to as much as $50 billion over the next three to five years. Juniper Research expects wearable device shipments to exceed 100 million by 2017.

According to NPD Group’s 2014 “Wearable Technology Study,” 52 percent of consumers say they have heard of wearable devices. Among those aware of devices, one in three say they are likely to buy one of them.

Fitness Bands Drive Sponsorship Activity
Much of the activity in the wearable technology category is driven by Fitbit, Jawbone and other companies in the fitness band segment.

Like the larger wearable technology category, fitness bands are experiencing strong growth. Worldwide shipments of wearable bands grew 684 percent in the first half of 2014 over the first half of 2013, according to Canalys, an industry analyst firm.

Canalys splits fitness bands into two segments: Smart bands, which are capable of running third-party applications (Android Wear, Samsung Gear, Pebble Steel, etc.) and basic bands, which are not (Fitbit, Jawbone, etc.).

The products typically cost between $60 and $200 and are sold through online channels and brick and mortar retailers.  

To no surprise, fitness bands focus on endurance sports. Fitbit—the largest player in the basic band segment—this year signed new deals with the Fitbit Tiburon Half Marathon and Bay to Breakers road race. The San Francisco-based company markets the Fitbit Flex and other activity and sleep trackers.

Fitbit activated Bay to Breakers with consumer sweepstakes and product seeding.

“We tied a bow around the product and gave them to runners in all age groups,” said Matt Wikstrom, executive vice president of endurance with Wasserman Media Group, which purchased the iconic footrace in 2013. 

The sponsorship afforded status as Bay to Breakers’ official fitness tracker.

Fitbit also is expanding its presence in music. The company this year signed lead sponsor status of the Quantum Collective Southwest Invasion, a free all-ages music festival in Austin, Texas. The March 14-15 event took place on the roof of Whole Foods Markets’ flagship store during the South by Southwest Music Festival.

Fitbit activated the sponsorship with YouTube videos that featured musicians discussing how they use personal activity trackers to stay fit on tour.  

Other companies are joining Fitbit in using sponsorship to promote their wares. Garmin International Inc. this year partnered with the Tough Mudder obstacle course series on behalf of its new fenix 2 training watch and VIRB Elite action camera. The company sells the products at Tough Mudder events.

Jawbone—the second-largest player in the basic band category—was one of the first companies to embrace sponsorship via its 2011 partnership with the NBA Golden State Warriors. The company this year activated the sponsorship with “UP for a Healthier Generation,” a community outreach program with Sheridan Elementary School in San Francisco.

Teachers used Jawbone UP bands to track their steps, calories burned and hours slept. The winning teacher received the opportunity to take their entire class to a Warriors home game during the 2014-2015 season.

Jawbone supports the Alliance for a Healthier Generation by making a $20 donation for each purchase of a special edition orange UP band. AFAHG was founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation.

Demonstrating the growing popularity of fitness bands, The Coca-Cola Co. in 2013 invested in Misfit Wearables as part of its venture strategy to mash upstart companies with traditional sponsorships. The partnerships coexist under the auspices of the beverage giant’s “global alliances and ventures” department.

Coke this year distributed Misfit Shine activity trackers through MyCokeRewards.com. The beverage giant awarded one Shine every hour from sunrise to sunset on every weekend throughout the summer.