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Fitness Business Asia Podcast

Nov 12, 2018

FBA 07: How we partnered with adidas and the way to negotiate partnerships with big brands in the fitness industry

In episode 7 Jack discusses the way to approach big negotiations with partners such as adidas, BASE’s partner in a deal that was secured before they opened their first location. He also talks about the best way to go into partnerships, view them and ultimately get the most out of them. 

In today’s episode:

  1. How we approached our negotiations with adidas, one of the world’s most recognizable brands.
  2. The things to consider when deciding whether to enter into a partnership or not.
  3. Why not all partnerships are good and how some can be detrimental.
  4. How to approach big brands about a partnership.
  5. How to receive partnership requests from other companies.
  6. The importance of introductions when starting a partnership.
  7. How it’s so important to make partnerships win/win





Welcome back to the FBA Podcast and thank you for tuning in.

We’re getting more and more listeners with each episode which is great. Our goal at the start of this project was to help fitness business owners raise their game in Asia and provide a resource that will help elevate the industry, I think we’ve made a little start with this and I’m excited about some of the content we’ll be releasing in the coming months.

Before we kick off today’s topic I’d like to ask a couple of small favours that will help us get out the best possible information and impact as many people in Asia’s fitness industry as possible. We don’t have any ads on the podcast and what we put out is for free, so if you can help out Id greatly appreciate it..

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OK, let’s get into it… For today’s episode, we will be going through partnerships, how to set them up and how to get the most out of them, and I’ll also be talking about something that I’m asked probably more than anything else. How did BASE get to partner with adidas?

I’d like to start by saying that while partnerships can be great, and we have some great ones at BASE, many are simply not worth the effort involved. Partnerships require an investment of time and sometimes money and before entering into one make sure that it’s going to be worth it for all parties and it’s not going to take too much focus off the important things that are going to really push your business forward.

Partnerships are like any other relationship – they require effort and some give and take from both sides for it to be successful. I think many people view partnerships in the wrong way and it often leads to them fizzling out, or in the worst cases disagreements and bad vibes.

The first step to creating a partnership is the introduction. Now sometimes others will reach out to you, you can of course also reach out to potential partners or you can get introduced by a trusted mutual friend of connection.

Without doubt the best way is to get introduced by someone you both know well, as you already have some trust and common ground, in that you both know the same person. This highlights the importance of a strong and diverse network – the more people you are connected with the more chance you can get good introductions. And I don’t mean facebook connections, I mean strong connections with people that you are willing to go out of your way for and help if they ask it of you. See that as a definition of a strong connection.

Whichever way you get introduced to the potential partner, the most important thing is that you demonstrate to the other party that you can bring them value. That should be the focus of your initial discussions NOT what they can do for you. This is pivotal to setting up a strong partnership, so keep the focus on what you’re giving, not what you’re taking.

Now in a perfect world, they are also taking the same approach and selling you on everything they can do for you. This is how the best partnerships start and flourish.

Now, the dynamic will often by quite one-sided – when we started BASE we were nobody, we didn’t have a physical location built yet and we didn’t own even a dumbbell. And then suddenly we were in negotiations with one of the world’s biggest brands on a partnership. Of course, they didn’t need to show us the value they brought at the start of discussions, that responsibility was solely on us.

I wish there was a step by step guide to these things but there’s more art than science and every situation will be different.

In summary, as I’ve discussed you have to show them the value you bring to them. How do you do that?

One – they need to be inspired by and have clarity on your vision and concept. Where is your company going? Will that excite them.

Who’s your target market? If this is the same target market that they are going for then that will greatly help.

What makes your offering special and unique? Will that excite them?

Two – they need to KNOW that you will represent their brand in the best possible way. Who do you have on your team – whether that be investors, managers, coaches, other staff? Are these people well known and reputable. Will you run a well-maintained facility and business that will be befitting of their brand?

Three – you need to let them know how a partnership might look and how they will benefit. What event and activations would you like to host? Can you help them with product launches? Is your business or venue a place they can use for things? Can you provide them with prizes, training, products?

Of course, the other party knows, or should know, that the best partnerships are ones where everyone benefits, so you can subtly add in benefits that you will get, but try and keep them to benefits that both parties gain from. For example – an activation with a partner is something that both of you win from. Everyone gets exposure, media attention etc.

Avoid any talk of ‘we will need this’, ‘this is what it will cost you’, ‘this is what we’d like in return’. This is bringing the focus back to take, rather than give, and that will turn them off pretty damn fast.

Let’s look at a switch in roles – let’s say a small healthy snack start up, or new holiday retreat company approached BASE and wanted to work with us and it’s clear that we are the more established business that brings a lot to the table.

In this case, you can let them do the talking and selling and see if they talk themselves out of a partnership. Honestly, usually they do because they’re focusing more on take, rather than give. Even if they’re saying some of the right things, often you know there’s a strong ulterior motive and it won’t be long before they want to be paid-back, so to speak.

I have found many partnerships end up like this and just take more time, effort and energy than they’re worth. For this reason, be very careful about who you choose to work with and really weigh up the mutual benefits of any potential partners. Partnerships, like any relationship, take work and nurturing, so make sure you know what you both set the expectations at the start.

OK, so let’s say a small start up have done a great job with telling me about all the benefits that BASE will receive, as the onus was on them to do so. I’m happy with what they can do for us, I believe they’re entering this partnership with a spirit of giving and so it’s now my turn to tell them what we can do for them and how we can help. If both parties play their part in this, we could have a great partnership.

Let’s look at another dynamic – you both have businesses of similar standing, position and status. This should be a very open conversation from the start with, again, both parties offering ways to add benefit to the others business. Good to questions to ask in these meetings are:

Do you think we share some of the same customers? How can we encourage them to visit each others businesses?

Do you have any ideas for events and promotions we can run together?

Or simply, ‘is there any way I can help you and your business?’

Now we don’t live in a perfect world where all partnerships work beautifully and flourish into amazing relationships that last generations. If you’ve entered into partnerships, relationships and networking with the spirit of giving then you’ll get a lot back overall. If you find that one particular partnership is not working out for you then you can choose to allocate less of your time to them. Simple as that, no hard feelings. If you approach partnerships and networking with this mindset you won’t go far wrong.

We’ve got some great partnerships at BASE with Paleo Robbie, Broccoli Revolution and of course Adidas. These are partners that are looking to give and we look to give in return.

Not all partnerships have ended up like that and that’s fine, that’s life. As I said in the beginning, I’ve found that a lot of partnerships have taken more time and effort that I’ve been able to give and so now we are very selective. Most partnership requests for BASE don’t get an initial meeting and I don’t mean to sound arrogant with that, it’s just reflective of our time and the quality of most of their approaches. In the next few weeks we’ll be releasing a podcast on how to make a quality approach to a partner, or really anyone that you’re looking to make a business connection with.

So I’d like to summarize the important points on partnerships:

  • Partnerships can be great, but take time and effort so make sure you can commit to it properly
  • Always approach partnerships with the spirit of giving and you will get that goodwill back. Maybe not from everyone, but overall.
  • If you’re approaching a partner that’s bigger than you, it’s on you to sell them on what value you bring
  • If you’re being approached by a partner that’s smaller than you, hear them out and if they look like they’ve approached with a spirit of giving and you think it could be fruitful, make sure it’s good for them too
  • If you’re of equal standing then initiate a positive, open conversation on ways you can help each other and it’ll become quickly obvious if it’s the right fit for you
  • Wherever possible, use introductions to get a partnership started. This also means expanding your network with high quality and strong connections.

In our next episode we will be looking at how to make key business approaches in the fitness industry. This will help know how to initiate that first meeting, whether that’s with the view to starting a partnership or any other kind of collaboration or even going for a job in the fitness industry.

That’s it for today – if you have any questions, comments or topics you’d like covered, please hit me up at or you can send a DM to our Instagram page which is fitnessbusinessasia – all one word.

For now, have a great day wherever you are and I’ll catch you next time!