Asics Buys Runkeeper as Apps & Athletic Gear Continue to Merge

[Updated 2/12/16, 3:32 p.m., to include deal price and details from Asics’s press release.] Japanese shoemaker Asics just acquired one of Boston’s best-known consumer tech companies, Runkeeper, for $85 million, as the virtual and physical worlds continue to collide in athletics.

Runkeeper co-founder and CEO Jason Jacobs announced the acquisition in a Medium blog post early Friday morning. Reached by e-mail, Jacobs declined to discuss the structure of the deal, but it’s likely a good outcome for the company’s investors and team, given it had raised about $11.5 million in venture capital.

When Runkeeper parent company FitnessKeeper launched in 2008, its app was one of the early tools that enabled users to track runs and other types of workouts, map out routes, and share fitness accomplishments with their friends. The company says it has attracted more than 45 million users—no easy feat for a consumer app. (The challenge, as always, was how to make money.)

Along the way, Runkeeper has partnered with companies like Pebble and other wearable device makers to integrate the app with their physical products. Runkeeper also began dabbling in apparel recently, launching a website to sell its own line of clothing and other accessories. But the company’s path has been rocky at times—it cut 16 employees, or about 30 percent of its staff, last August.

By joining Asics, Runkeeper gains access to more resources to continue evolving its product, and the move opens up new ways to interact with consumers, Jacobs said. Asics, meanwhile, already offers an online training and fitness-tracking program for runners, but it clearly sees Runkeeper as a way to strengthen its mobile presence. Asics also said it plans to use the Runkeeper app to “establish a one-to-one marketing channel utilizing user data.” [Previous sentence added from the Asics release—Eds.]

“When we look ahead, it seems clear that the fitness brands of the future will not just make physical products, but will be embedded in the consumer journey in ways that will help keep people motivated and maximize their enjoyment of sport,” Jacobs wrote in his blog post. “By putting these two pieces together (digital fitness platform and world-class physical products), you can build a new kind of fitness brand that has a deeper, more trusted relationship with consumers and can engage with them in a more personalized way. Partnering with Asics to fulfill this vision together makes a ton of sense.”

Other big athletic shoe and apparel companies have the same theory. Last year, Under Armour bought fitness-tracking apps Endomondo and MyFitnessPal, while Adidas purchased Runtastic.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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