How Nobull became an all-star sports brand

If you tuned into this year’s NFL Scouting Combine in early March, you couldn’t miss Nobull. From athletes’ apparel to press conference backdrops, the Boston-based workout apparel and footwear company’s bold all-caps brand took center stage. It was the first in a multi-year partnership with the combine, where Nobull also introduced the first-ever Athlete Training and Recovery Center for prospects and their coaches.

This isn’t the first high-profile partnership for Nobull: it’s also the title sponsor of the CrossFit Games and the official brand of workout apparel and footwear for the PGA Tour. Co-founders Marcus Wilson and Michael Schaeffer met in the early 2000s while working at Reebok. Wilson was the head of brand strategy and Schaffer was the global creative director. They shared an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for sport.

In 2012, they quit their jobs and co-founded a Boston-based marketing and design agency called Bold & Co. “Michael and his wife, Amy, and my wife, Anisha, we started the business,” Wilson says. . “When you transfer money from investment accounts and transfer it to factories, it’s real. These are sacrifices entrepreneurs make all the time that are often taken for granted. Michael and I were finally on the hook, and we took it seriously.

Along with a tolerance for financial risk, the co-founders shared a passion for cross-training. During their workouts, they noticed that most people who walked into CrossFit gyms wore running shoes that weren’t designed for the dynamic movements of cross-training. Schaeffer and Wilson set out to create a shoe that could meet that demand and do something for the community.

They wanted to avoid expensive technology and noisy marketing that made customers feel like they could run faster or jump higher simply by slipping their feet into a new pair of shoes. They wanted to create a mindset and a culture around their brand. “We didn’t want to sell a thing,” says Schaeffer. “We didn’t want to promise that the product would make them fitter because we think that’s all BS.”

All of their conversations around the concept had a central theme of honesty and transparency. “Why not call him Nobull and drop the ‘shit’ part?” Schaeffer remembers asking Wilson.

With a background in mechanical engineering and traditional design, and heavily influenced by his European roots, Schaeffer set out to create a clean, simple and functional product. Nobull launched its first training shoe (and Duffleback backpack) at the 2015 East Coast CrossFit Championships. Four months later on Thanksgiving, Nobull launched more widely when its website went live.

“It all sold out in 10 minutes,” Wilson says. “That moment was so liberating.” On Cyber ​​Monday, he and Schaeffer phoned every client they still worked with at Bold & Co. to let them know the agency was closing — and it was all Nobull from then on.

To the many hats they already wore, Wilson and Schaeffer added the role of customer service representatives. If there were any fit or shipping issues or even general questions, customers would tag the founders on social media and the pair would respond to every request. Even now, with over 100 employees and dedicated customer service, the pair are still getting messages from some of those early customers.

In 2016, Nobull became the main sponsor of the CrossFit Games. Meanwhile, its partnership deal with the PGA Tour runs until 2027, and the professional soccer scouting partnership included a nine-figure investment in Nobull. The company’s roster of athletes includes eight-time CrossFit Games athlete Brooke Wells, golf pro Scott Stallings, Olympic swimmer Caeleb Dressel and NFL quarterback Mac Jones. Each athlete provides product and performance insight and helps promote the brand via social media.

This summer, Nobull is moving into new premises: the former boston globe building in Dorchester. The facilities will include top-of-the-line training and recovery equipment in addition to in-house content studios, as well as design and wear-testing spaces. With successful pop-ups at events and an in-store trial in Miami, the brand is set to open a retail store in London this fall.

“We want to be a catalyst for the wider training community and help it grow,” says Wilson. “Our goal is to do this region by region, city by city and interaction by interaction. When we talk 5-10 years from now, that’s Nobull being global, having places – whether through partners or our own – where we can interact with the training community in a positive way to help celebrate their success and hard work, because hard work is success.

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