Simone Biles Teams With Athleta in Long-Range Partnership
Athleta plans to co-create Biles' own signature activewear line.
By Lisa Lockwood on April 23, 2021
Athleta, a division of The Gap, has revealed a long-term partnership with Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in World Championships history. Athleta will be Biles’ exclusive apparel partner. Her sponsorship deal with Nike has ended.
The 24-year-old Olympic gold medalist joins Athleta in a wide-ranging partnership with a particular focus on Athleta Girl — encouraging millions of girls to pursue their potential. Athleta Girl, which was launched in 2016, targets girls from six to 13 years old, with the core being between ages eight and 10.
Biles will collaborate with Athleta’s design team in the development of signature products for aspiring athletes, including plans for multiple capsule collaborations for Athleta Girl. As her exclusive active and athleisure partner, Athleta will co-create Biles’ own signature activewear line, which will be introduced in 2022.
Details concerning the line are still in development
“Using my voice has been very empowering for me and I’m grateful to embark on this new journey with Athleta to inspire young girls and women to do the same,” said Biles. “The opportunity to encourage young girls to reach their full potential and be a force for change is incredibly powerful. I admire Athleta for their commitment to recognize and support women’s individual and collective strength and, together, I believe we can help girls to confidently and passionately take on the world in their athletic endeavors and beyond.”
Widely regarded as one of the greatest female athletes of all time, Biles will connect directly with girls through Athleta’s community to inspire conversations and help develop programming focused on supporting and lifting up young women and girls.
“We are excited to welcome Simone to the Athleta family and work together to further our mission of empowering women and girls,” said Mary Beth Laughton, president and chief executive officer of Athleta. “Simone believes in championing the next generation of female athletes as much as we do, and we are confident this partnership will continue to build community with our customers and enrich our brand.”
Jana Henning, chief product officer of Athleta, added, “Simone embodies our brand through her advocacy, mentorship and work in the community. Our team is looking forward to working collaboratively with her to bring the same elements of confidence, strength, and grace she demonstrates on and off the mat into future collections for girls.”
In an interview with WWD, Henning said, “I think at the core of it is that we share very similar values. In a world that really challenges women’s and girls’ confidence, Athleta’s mission is to empower women and girls. We’re not just supporting Simone as an athlete, but we’re trying to support her as a person.”
She said the efforts will focus on Athleta Girl, “which is a huge business for us and it’s growing very quickly.”
There are about 200 Athleta stores in the U.S., with plans to add an additional 20 to 30 stores a year. Athleta Girl is in all of them.
“There’s a big opportunity for us to bring in millions of girls and really tell our story,” said Henning. “Simone is just beloved by this community.”
She said they will develop a Simone by Athleta signature product collection that will be focused on performance-wear and lifestyle products. “We’re still in the early stages,” she said, noting the exact label hasn’t been decided. “We have a highly engaged community base in both our stores and through social media. The goal is to really put Simone in the center of that, and allow her to tell her story and provide her vision and instill confidence into that group of girls and invite more girls into the brand,” said Henning.
This is the first time Athleta, which was founded in 1998, has tied in with a gymnast. Athleta has successfully supported Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in U.S. track and field history, in her advocacy efforts. “It will be exciting to see them head off to Tokyo [for the Olympics this summer] and see what happens,” said Henning.
Henning said when they spoke with Biles they knew it would be a ground-breaking partnership. “It’s a really exciting space for us. They’ll have active and lifestyle products. It will be a holistic approach to her life and her values, and we hope to get that whole vision across in the collection.” She said a full collection will be in 2022, but there might be some surprises this year.
“Simone is such an incredible figure and so aspirational for our customer base. When we met with Simone, we knew right away this would be a great partnership and would be beneficial for both the Athleta brand and for Simone. The impact we want to make on the world and how we want to make women and girls feel and aspire to reach their limitless potential was definitely a shared value,” she said.
Henning said Biles will be involved in what the line looks like. “She has lots of ideas. She’s passionate about the Athleta brand and we’re looking forward to her input,” said Henning. Biles was unavailable for an interview.
They are still working through what the pricing structure will be.
The company believes Biles transcends sports and will appeal to gymnasts and non-gymnasts alike. Athleta is also investing in Biles’ passion projects. The retailer will sponsor her Gold Over America Tour this fall and the annual Biles Invitational.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Biles was the first woman to capture five All-Around World Championship titles. She has won 25 medals overall (including 19 gold), and is a five-time Olympic medalist (four gold). A three-time Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, Biles has earned the distinction of having four skills named in her honor — The Biles — in the beam, floor (two) and vault disciplines. Her autobiography, “Courage to Soar,” was a New York Times bestseller and developed into a TV special. Biles has also appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Athleta, whose net sales in 2019 were $978 million, has been busy on several fronts.
As reported, in an effort to achieve $2 billion in sales by 2023, the San Francisco-based retailer has increased its inclusive sizing. In January, the company began offering 350 styles within Athleta’s assortment of activewear and performance lifestyle categories in sizes 1x to 3x (or sizes 18-26) in-store and online. That number was increased to 500 styles in March. Previously, about 100 styles were inclusive sizing, and they were only online.