Nike Sharing Its New FuelBand Data With Marketers

Fitness tracker toes the line between 'awesome' and 'creepy'

Nike hopes to become a vanguard of intimate, sensor-based advertising with the help of its activity-monitoring device, the Nike+ FuelBand.

Along with other gadgets in its Nike+ network—including iOS and Android apps, a specialized iPod and a sports watch—the FuelBand tracks users' fitness activity like running and walking. The Wall Street Journal reported that Nike unveiled a series of partnerships with startups that tap into FuelBand data, offering opportunities for finely targeted marketing.

Through an initiative called Nike+ Accelerator, Nike handed 10 fledgling app developers $20,000 and sent them to a three-month boot camp in Portland, Ore., to build health and fitness apps for Nike+ devices.

Participating startups include Sprout, which allows users to integrate their FuelBand data into a fitness program sponsored by their employer. Sprout is ideal for companies who pay for health insurance and want to reward employees for getting fit, Sprout's founders said.

GeoPalz offers a reward system meant to get kids excited about exercise. "Being Nike FuelBand compatible will allow us to piggyback on Nike's customers and grow more quickly," GeoPalz chief executive Rich Schmelzer told The Journal.

Boston-based company HighFive noted the privacy issues that could arise from its own FuelBand-compatible product, which offers rewards in the form of discounts and coupons for achieving fitness goals like a new personal-best run. “There is a fine line between serving rewards that are awesome versus creepy,” said HighFive COO Katie Pietrowski. Users submit personal data voluntarily, Pietrowski added.

Nike already uses the data it collects from its Nike+ system to design products and build its brand strategy. For example, when the company found that Nike+ users were running on trails more than paved roads, Nike expanded its trail-running merchandise offerings.

But the company plans to turn its data-mining venture into intimate, highly personalized marketing.

“Technically, there’s no reason why we couldn’t create the capability so that when you walk into a store, we’ll know you’re there and can give you better service,” said Stefan Olander, Nike’s head of digital sport, told Bloomberg. “But we have to make sure it feels like a service rather than stalking.”