Running shoe company ASICS buys Runkeeper for $85 million

By Jonah Comstock
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Boston-based FitnessKeeper, maker of the Runkeeper app, has announced an agreement to be acquired by Japanese apparel company ASICS for $85 million, MobiHealthNews has learned. 

"Partnering with ASICS to fulfill [our] vision together makes a ton of sense," Runkeeper founder and CEO Jason Jacobs wrote in a Medium post announcing the deal. "We both have deep roots in and focus on running as a core component of the fitness experience. There is strong alignment between our brands and core values. And from people using our Shoe Tracker feature in the app, we know that ASICS shoes are by far the ones that Runkeeper users run in the most!"

Jacobs spoke with MobiHealthNews recently about big plans to take on apparel companies like Under Armour and Adidas, which recently acquired some of Runkeeper's biggest competitors. His ambitions to take on those companies without the backing of a large, experienced apparel company seemed ambitious to say the least.

ASICS hasn't been a total stranger to digital -- the company has had a fairly feature-rich training app in the app store since November 2011. ASICS acquired Runkeeper both for its potential as a one-to-one marketing channel and for the platform itself, which they intend to keep intact.

"From the end-user standpoint, not much will change," Jacobs wrote in his post. "Not only will the Runkeeper product carry on, but we will be able to move even faster. We will be able to pursue the vision we’ve set out to pursue all along, with a partner that can bring many resources to bear that we couldn’t fathom having access to on our own."

In his conversation with us last month, Jacobs talked about this one-to-one marketing channel and how it's built on user experiences and delivering sales offers in context to runners.

“So a few months ago we put... a shoe tracker in [to the app], because we heard from some consumers they had a hard time keeping track of how many miles are on their shoes and if they go too long without changing their shoes they can get hurt," he said. "So we put in a shoe tracker, but now we know what kind of shoes they wear, how many miles are on their shoes, and when they’re due for a new pair of shoes. So we could, for example, surface a discount of 20 percent on a pair of shoes that we already know that they wear at a time when they need a new pair of shoes and the consumer finds great value in that and the brand finds great value in that as well.”

Runkeeper has raised about $11.5 million in funding, most recently with a $10 million round in 2011. That round was led by Spark Capital. Return backers, including AOL co-founder Steve Case's Revolution Ventures and OATV, the venture arm of O'Reilly Media, also participated in the round.

This deal follows a major trend of fitness apps being acquired by apparel companies. Almost a year ago, Under Armour announced its acquisition of Endomondo and MyFitnessPal for a combined $560 million. A little over a year before that, they bought MapMyFitness for $150 million. Adidas followed suit by buying Austrian fitness app Runtastic for $240 million. By Jacobs' reckoning, Runkeeper and Strava were the only major independent players left. Now that's down to just Strava.