NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The wraps are coming off Reebok's exclusive deal to outfit UFC fighters, an important part of the athletic apparel and footwear maker's strategy to stay relevant in a crowded market.
"We have totally focused the company on emerging sports, such as the sport of CrossFit, and obstacle training through our Reebok Spartan Race," Reebok Brand President Matt O'Toole said in an interview with TheStreet at the unveiling of the brand's first apparel line for UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial artists. "We are connecting with a consumer that is dedicated to a fit and healthy life."
So far, Reebok's focus on attire to be worn on a grueling run or in an intense CrossFit session seems to be paying dividends. Sales for Reebok have increased for eight consecutive quarters, following years of stumbling performance since Adidas (ADDYY) acquired the brand for $3.8 billion in 2005.
"It's definitely starting to pay off for them," said Katie Abel, global news director for Footwear News. But Abel cautioned that bigger names such as Nike (NKE) and Under Armour (UA) continue to dominate the athletic apparel space.
One other industry watcher was also cautiously optimistic on Reebok's turnaround. "We have not yet seen a turn in sales at retail, but my guess is Reebok is getting a lift in training, classic shoes and from their outlet stores," said NPD Group sports industry analyst Matt Powell. According to NPD Group data, despite Reebok's improving sales trend, it still has a scant 1% share of the U.S. sneaker market.