Baking up bread with benefits — like fiber, protein, and zero net carbs.
The rise of women’s sports has unlocked new frontiers for fitness brands.
Women’s pro leagues are growing twice as fast as general sports.
- NCAA March Madness viewership jumped 43% YoY, while the WNBA is up 67%.
- The value of women’s soccer teams 10x’d from $5M in ’20 to $66M this year.
- 71% of execs predict double-digit revenue growth for the next 3–5 years.
Adding fuel, celebrity-backed ventures like Natalie Portman’s Angel City FC and League One Volleyball are capturing young, socially conscious, hyper-engaged fans — 50% of whom will support brand sponsors.
Off the Bench
Feeling inspired, more women are suiting up.
- Women comprise 44% of NCAA athletes, and 60% of girls play high school sports.
- US weightlifting is “technically a women’s sport” with >50% female members.
- Per the IHRSA, the majority of gym memberships belong to women.
The societal benefits of rising participation are far-reaching. Girls in sports develop lasting exercise habits, fewer health problems, and make up 94% of female C-suite execs. But, lack of opportunity, pay discrepancies, and sexist practices continue to limit their potential.
Striving for inclusion, Zwift sponsored Tour de France Femme, Strava announced a $1M initiative, and the NCL launched a gender-equal league. Joining in, lululemon, PUMA, and others have pledged support for female athletes while ramping up women’s R&D.
Timeout. Another obstacle, just 8% of published studies focused on female physiology. Lacking sex-specific research, girls are left guessing what degree of movement benefits their bodies, causing many to bow out.
- Half of girls quit sports during puberty.
- 42% of 12–14-year-olds avoid exercising on their period.
- Nearly 50% of 1K surveyed athletes missed training due to menstruation symptoms.
Stepping in, companies are designing tech to keep women in the game.
Cycle syncing. Demystifying female physiology, wearable makers WHOOP, Oura, Apple, and Samsung introduced cycle tracking insights. A step further, apps like Orreco’s FitrWoman and Wild.AI translate menstruation-related data into tailored training plans.
Maternal fitness. Nike Training Club launched a 48-week doctor-approved pregnancy program last year, adding to maternal courses offered by Every Mother and obé. And, women’s fitness franchise FIT4MOM launched a pre/postnatal training certification this month.
Tailored gear. Acknowledging biomechanical differences, Ida developed cleats to reduce risk of ACL tears. Meanwhile, Australia’s Zena Sport makes protective garments for contact sports, and Oya designed leggings to prevent vaginal infections.
Following suit, apparel giants Nike, adidas, and Under Armour debuted leak-proof fabrics, bespoke sports bras, and female-specific shoes during the World Cup — signaling more innovation to come.
Punchline: Historically, girls have dropped out of sports due to lack of comfort, confidence, and cultural support. Rising women’s leagues are shifting sentiment, but closing the gender gap for good requires buy-in from brands, media, and science.
🎙 On the Podcast
Body Fit Training founder and co-CEO Cameron Falloon discusses scaling strength-based group fitness.
Leveraging Cam’s experience training athletes, BFT reimagines progressive programs for everyday exercisers — offering resistance training, cardio, and more. Founded in 2017, the brand now counts 450+ global locations and 60K members.
We also cover: shortcomings of boutique studios, AI’s impact on personal training, and Xponential Fitness’s acquisition of BFT.
Listen to today’s episode here.
💉 Life Time plans obesity drugs pilot for gym members
According to Life Time president and COO Jeff Zwiefel, the gym chain will pilot a program to prescribe weight loss injections for members.
The plan: Bring medical professionals “in-house” to deliver obesity drugs at clubs — working in conjunction with members’ primary care doctors, the gym’s trainers, and nutritionists.
TBD. Cost and rollout details weren’t provided, but Zwiefel said the program would include blood tests and meet FDA guidelines for increased physical activity — criteria required by some insurers to cover costs.
Meanwhile, as attitudes toward weight management shift—from a focus on behavior change and willpower to an emphasis on the role of biology and environment—companies are being forced to adapt.
This spring, WeightWatchers acquired Sequence, a telehealth platform for prescribing GLP-1s. Despite shedding subscribers, its stock is up ~80% since the deal closed.
Then in May, Noom launched Noom Med, a new program offering obesity medications alongside its weight loss app.
Punchline: Accepting the reality that whoever qualifies will likely opt into treatment, Life Time sees a prescription-plus-physical-activity program as an on-ramp to exercise and gateway to additional revenue. As Big Food and healthcare confront the Ozempic effect, a successful gym model could force other fitness brands to reevaluate their stance on weight loss shots.
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🎽 Rhone restructures, plots expansion
The activewear brand bought back PE firm L Catterton’s ~30% stake with capital from new investors, including pro sports team owners and athletes.
Fresh funds. Rhone says the deal—closed discreetly in July 2022—frees it to pursue mission-driven growth without pressure to IPO. And, it signifies self-belief as a major, long-term contender in the apparel space.
Scaling up. Founded as a men’s-only brand in 2014, in recent years, Rhone became profitable, hit $100M in revenue, and grew its retail footprint.
Now, its restructured playbook will prioritize community, holistic wellness, and lifestyle, with an additional focus on mental health. And, it’ll expand into women’s wear with studio, lifestyle, and court collections next spring.
Standing out. As consumers seek lifestyle-aligned products, premium activewear retailers are in a race to differentiate — and dethrone Nike, adidas, and Under Armour.
- Fellow mens-turned-everyone brand Vuori now sees 50% of sales from women, has 40+ global stores, and is rumored for a 2024 IPO.
- Running shoe maker On is entering tennis, evolving into a sport-agnostic apparel brand.
- Alo is going all-in on high-fashion as its wellness empire takes shape.
Meanwhile, niche newcomers like Tracksmith, Satisfy, and Bandit are attracting loyalty with indie vibes, strong values, and authentic communities.
Looking ahead: Choosing independence, Rhone’s repositioning as a purpose-driven lifestyle brand trades its foundational ethos for growth potential. But, if it can carve a clear identity, its access to influential investors and athletes offers an edge.
📰 News & Notes
- F45 reports $372M of losses in restated financial filings.
- Experiential grocery stores give better-for-you brands a boost.
- TRX, Orangetheory Fitness co-brand new products and programs.
- Walmart expands doula services as employee benefit nationwide.
- Fitt Jobs: New career opportunities from top health & fitness brands.
- Daily Harvest teams with Season Health for diabetes-friendly DTC meals.
- Startup Q&A: Supergut’s Marc Washington on prebiotics for metabolic health.
- Headspace unifies its mental health services, expands guided therapy content.
- Xplor Mariana Tek adds new marketing services to unlock boutique studio growth.
- Litesport taps asensei for AI form tracking in mixed reality. [Re-read: MR x Fitness]
- Want more news? Check out WellToDo, our weekly newsletter covering global health and fitness headlines.
💰 Money Moves
- L Catterton sold its stake in activewear brand Rhone to a consortium including NBA owners Gabe Plotkin and Dave Blitzer, and ex-NFLers Tim Tebow and Steve Young.
- Major League Pickleball team The Texas Ranchers added an undisclosed investment from rapper Lil Wayne, who will serve as advisor.
- Specialty running retailer Fleet Feet acquired Charlotte-based independent run store The Ultra Running Company (URC).
- Beckley Waves, a psychedelics-focused VC firm, acquired ketamine-assisted therapy provider Nue Life.
- Greater Good Health raised $20M in a Series A round to build value-based eldercare clinics.
- Sage, a senior care coordination platform, raised $15M in a Series A round led by Maveron.
- Canadian digital cardiovascular care startup Kento Health secured $3M in an oversubscribed pre-seed round.
- Clearblow, a company developing AI-powered respiratory health solutions, raised undisclosed funds in a pre-seed round led by Global Venture Capital Partners.
- Sleep and wellness wearables brand Hapbee added an undisclosed investment from NBA veteran José Manuel Calderón.
- Food-as-medicine company Enhanced Medical Nutrition (EMN) raised an undisclosed amount in an oversubscribed pre-Series A round.
Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, Ryan Deer, and Jasmina Breen.