WWE has formed a joint venture with Authentic Brands Group, in which the companies will partner to relaunch the Tapout clothing brand that was formerly closely associated with UFC and mixed martial arts fighting.
Tapout will now be repositioned as a broader lifestyle fitness brand, with the company also set to serve as the official fitness and training partner of WWE.
As part of the deal, Tapout will be integrated across WWE’s various platforms, from its TV shows and pay-per-view events to series that stream on its WWE Network, as well as live events and social media.
WWE also will create new content featuring its roster of male and female wrestlers who will wear Tapout apparel outside of the ring. Additional branding will be featured at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where all performers, trainers and staff will be outfitted in Tapout workout apparel.
Financial details are not being disclosed, but WWE will maintain a 50% stake in the joint venture, and will benefit from the growth of Tapout. WWE believes it can provide Tapout with over 1 billion impressions across its various platforms a month.
With that in mind, WWE sees Tapout as a way to grow its consumer products business, which generates around $1 billion in sales around the world. Much of that business has been dependent upon toys, videogames and apparel. But WWE sees Tapout as a new way to expand into the lifestyle fitness arena — a market that others like Under Armour have been especially successful in doing lately.
ABG, which will handle the distribution of the Tapout products, approached WWE around six months ago. WWE sparked to the idea of a joint venture, given that the company had been looking to expand into the lifestyle fitness ring with its own products. WWE previously had a deal with Under Armour.
“We love to be in business with other people that are experts where we’re not,” said Michelle Wilson, WWE’s chief revenue and marketing officer. “Fitness apparel specifically seemed like a good match for us and is a natural evolution for the WWE brand.”
WWE’s association with Tapout will be teased this week online and on the WWE Network. The timing comes as WWE will produce its annual “WrestleMania” PPV — its version of the Super Bowl — on March 29, hosted this year from San Jose’s Levi’s Stadium. This will be the company’s 31st “WrestleMania.”
Tapout was founded by Charles “Mask” Lewis, Dan “Punkass” Caldwell and Timm “Skyskrape” Katz, and sold to ABG in 2010. At the time, it was the leading MMA apparel, gear and lifestyle brand, and repped MMA stars Rashad Evans, Rich Franklin, Dan Hardy, Thiago Alves, Chael Sonnen and Roy Nelson. In addition to clothing, it also produced a reality and radio show, and was the official apparel brand for Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter.”
ABG saw an opportunity to make Tapout appeal to a larger group of athletic consumers, however, and will relaunch the company with a new logo, apparel and accessories in the spring, with other products debuting later this year and early 2016. New products will also include beverages, supplements and fitness centers.
“Tapout was ABG’s first acquisition and it continues to be a global brand with strong sales and blue chip partners all over the world. We have a very strong commitment to the brand’s ongoing success,” said Jamie Salter, chairman and CEO of ABG. “WWE is a media and entertainment force, and we are excited to partner with them on Tapout’s future growth.”
A major player in the licensing industry, ABG reps products tied to Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, Juicy Couture and Prince tennis.
“WWE’s expansive reach provides a global platform to broaden Tapout’s presence and consumer base,” said Nick Woodhouse, president and chief marketing officer of ABG. “This is a powerhouse pairing given the synergy between Tapout’s brand promise to be the premiere hard-body fitness brand, and WWE’s commitment to training and fitness.”
WWE has been aggressive in identifying more ways to get its brand and talent in front of a broader audience that may not necessarily tune into its weekly series like “Raw” and “SmackDown” on USA and Syfy. Its reality show “Total Divas” show is a hit for E!, and more recently WWE’s chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon has become an editorial advisor to Shape magazine, while Paul Levesque, known as Triple H in the ring and WWE’s executive VP of talent, live events and creative, has become an editorial advisor to Muscle & Fitness.
The company also had previously invested in video messaging startup Tout.
“WWE is always looking for new opportunities to partner with best-in-class organizations, develop new products for our fans and drive shareholder value,” said WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. “This joint venture aligns with our strategic approach, and we look forward to building the Tapout brand.”