Nobull, the athletic apparel brand with a cult-like CrossFit following, raises cash to speed global expansion

  • CrossFit's favorite clothing and footwear brand, Nobull, has raised new funding, giving it a more than $500 million valuation, CNBC has learned.
  • Co-founders Marcus Wilson and Michael Schaeffer told CNBC that Nobull has seen explosive growth during the Covid pandemic.
  • But that has also created supply-chain constraints and led to out of stocks. Nobull plans to use the fresh capital to help replenish inventories and speed its global expansion.

Nobull, an athletic apparel and footwear maker with a cult-like following in the CrossFit community, has completed another round of funding with a valuation north of $500 million, CNBC has learned.

Co-founders Marcus Wilson and Michael Schaeffer told CNBC that Nobull has seen explosive growth during the Covid pandemic, as consumers have put spending on clothes for work or going out on hold, but are still in the market for workout gear to either lounge in or use for their at-home fitness routines. That same demand has benefited the likes of Nike, Under Armour, Lululemon and Adidas.

The health crisis has, however, also created supply-chain constraints and led to ample out of stocks. Nobull said it plans to use the fresh financing to help replenish inventories.

Boston-based Nobull is best known for its training gear: Items like lightweight and sweat-wicking shorts, sleeveless tank tops, and training shoes. It makes a special pair of sneakers just for lifting that will set you back about $300. More recently, it has ventured into selling items for other sports and activities, including running, and it debuted a $180 cycling cleat last year.

Its women's business currently outpaces its men's, in part thanks to a growing list of female athletes who serve as Nobull brand ambassadors, including CrossFit Games athlete and professional weightlifter Tia-Clair Toomey.

Wilson and Schaeffer are both lifelong athletes and members of the CrossFit community.

"It was kind of a no brainer," Schaeffer said about how Nobull initially reached the world of CrossFit roughly six years ago. "We've both loved CrossFit. We love the community … and that's organically what we targeted."

That call is paying off. Last month, CrossFit announced that Nobull would become the title sponsor of its CrossFit Games, which kick off again this summer. The brand will also serve as the official footwear and apparel sponsor for the CrossFit community. The partnership is expected to run for at least three years.

"We're not a CrossFit brand," Wilson explained. "But CrossFit is a sport and a form of training for people who train hard and don't believe in excuses. So there's really great synergies within CrossFit."

Once it catches up to the demand it's seeing in the United States, Nobull's next ambitions include expanding overseas.

"We've got high global awareness," Wilson said. "So the other thing that we're doing is building out our ability to distribute products around the world. … We want to make sure we bring down the barriers to entry in those markets for our customers who are already demanding products."

It continues to sell primarily online. It has three stores in the U.S. — in Boston, Miami and the SoHo neighborhood of New York City — which are still temporarily shut due to the pandemic. It hopes to open more in the coming years, with no plans to get into wholesale channels such as department stores.

"We've gotten very creative … when it comes to product launches. We've just been super flexible, and this is where not having a lot of wholesale makes it a lot easier," Wilson said.

Nobull has raised $32 million to date, according to Pitchbook.

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