Why this up-and-coming athleisure brand is succeeding by being the anti-Nike

Outdoor Voices wants to be everything that Nike isn’t.

The 3-year-old activewear company rejects the notion that has been long been embraced by Nike: that sports and exercise should be competitive and results-oriented. 

“While you’re running over hurdles in high school track, that message makes sense. But I realised that there was a powerful combination about being feminine and athletic that wasn’t embodied in a brand,” Tyler Haney, the 27-year-old founder of Outdoor Voices, recently said to CNBC.

Nike’s marketing revolves around competition and results-oriented exercise. This message has worked; it’s the number one apparel company in the United States.

Other successful athleisure companies have also risen to the top with marketing messages that revolve around competitiveness. Under Armour’s marketing pitch revolves around being the underdog and working hard against all odds to ultimately succeed.

And while not competitive, Lululemon has a clear personality that has led to its rise; it celebrates its community through in-store work-out events and its iconic shopping bags have semi-yogic platitudes written on them. 

But Outdoor Voices is for someone who just enjoys regularly exercising and being active.

“We really wanted to create a brand that celebrates activity rather than making it competitive,” Haney said to CNBC. “We talk about our customer as someone who is active but not defined by it. For that reason, we get people from all walks of life.”

And Haney’s motto is about just being one’s best, versus the best. That mentality stems back to her childhood.

“My mum was the best kind of coach growing up, and she had this saying ‘TYB, baby. Try your best, baby.’ Whether she was sending me to school or soccer practice or a slumber party, she’d say ‘TYB, baby!’ And that’s kind of this ongoing model we have at Outdoor Voices. It drums up enthusiasm and energy,” she said to CNBC.

The company is beginning to gain more traction as more people learn about the brand; it’s sold at J. Crew and at standalone stores. It’s been called the “Lululemon for hipsters.” 

Additionally, Haney’s work landed her a place on Forbes’ 30 Under 30.

Even though she appears to dislike competition in exercise, Haney is certainly competitive when it comes to her business.

According to CNBC, the company has grown “eight-fold” since its inception, when it started three years ago with just Haney’s own personal savings and some investments from friends. (The company is private and does not disclose financials.)

More over, she told The Coveteur in March that she  “is very much wanting to be the next great activewear brand — and so that’s very much [her] vision for it.”

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