WHOOP: The Data-Driven Fitness Wearable Lebron James & Michael Phelps Use

During an era of fitness wearable proliferation, WHOOP has become the favorite for professional athletes in the NFL, MLB, and NBA. Some of the highest profile athletes in the world are using WHOOP including both Olympian Michael Phelps and NBA star Lebron James.  However, while WHOOP’s main differentiator is its data-driven approach, I wonder if it will have a hard time selling itself to the casual fitness consumer, especially given WHOOP’s $500 price point. 

During an era of fitness wearable proliferation, WHOOP has become the favorite for professional athletes in the NFL, MLB, and NBA. In 2017, not only did the MLB approve for players to wear WHOOP during games, but WHOOP also became the official recovery wearable of the NFL Player’s Association.[1]  Some of the highest profile athletes in the world are using WHOOP including both Olympian Michael Phelps and NBA star Lebron James.  However, while WHOOP’s main differentiator is its data-driven approach, I wonder if it will have a hard time selling itself to the casual fitness consumer, especially given WHOOP’s $500 price point.

Professional athletes can’t get enough of the massive amount of data which WHOOP provides its users.  Five sensors collect data 100x per second resulting in 100MB of data collected every day per user which the wearable pushes into the cloud for processing.[2]  To put this amount of data collection into perspective, the Apple Watch’s sensors turn just once per minute.  With every data collection, WHOOP measures an athlete’s heart rate, accelerometry, skin conductivity, and temperature.  While regular fitness wearables focus on step count, calorie-burn, and heart-rate data – WHOOP converts all this data into easy to understand metrics for the user.

The genius behind WHOOP is the simplicity to which is presents the data to the consumer.  Via a mobile app, WHOOP breaks down performance in three simple visualized metrics: Strain, Recovery, and Sleep.  WHOOP provides a Strain score between 0-21 calculated from the 100MB of data measuring how hard the user has strained their body in the last day.  WHOOP’s Sleep Trainer recommends how many hours you should be sleeping according to the amount of strain on your body as well has analyzing your sleep performance, including light, REM, and sleep cycles.  WHOOP’s Recovery score (provided each morning) shows a percentage (0%-100%) and a color code (red, yellow, green) which indicates your recovery level for that given day.  Recovery scores are determined from advanced biometric stats such as heart rate variability and sleep latency.[3]  Recovery scores translate to recommendations of how hard to push your body in your next workout.[4]

While the analysis of data in professional sports is becoming more and more important, WHOOP is the first wearable that allows coaches to make training decisions on when and how hard to push their athletes in practice.  Understanding the combination of strain and sleep an athlete experiences results in a snapshot of the athlete’s body-preparedness for a given workout.  For example, a coach might monitor his teams recovery scores after a cross-country road-trip which included a tough game followed by a long flight and a time change.  If the coach sees that the team’s recovery scores are lower than normal, the coach will presumably opt to put the team through a less grueling than normal workout in order to not strain the team’s athletes.  Understanding exactly how hard to push the team will result in better in-game performance.

The one concern I have for WHOOP is whether they can have success marketing this high-end product to the general fitness market.  The price point of $500 might push the casual fitness consumer away.  The company might consider a WHOOP Lite version for the more casual consumer and market it in a way to live a healthier life.  If everything you do – from that extra 15 minutes of sleep or that one-less alcoholic drink – is factored into your recovery score, I could see the company creating a cheaper version with a less data intensive offering.

[1] https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/08/30/nfl-technology-whats-new-2017-season?utm_campaign=themmqb&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

[2] http://time.com/4744459/whoop-strap-fitness-tracker-band/

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-06-27/the-best-gadgets-to-make-you-fit-and-lose-weight

[4] https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171120005149/en/WHOOP-Takes-Stress-Season-“Thrive-Holidays”-Challenge

Previous:

The Golden State Warriors – Data & Talent = Heart! 

Next:

Ancestry.com

2 thoughts on “WHOOP: The Data-Driven Fitness Wearable Lebron James & Michael Phelps Use

  1. There are quite a few Whoop bands floating around HBS (and not just on the professional athletes), so there’s likely also a market that exists for high-income consumers. This may actually be a very attractive market segment with an increased likelihood to pay for additional products and services, such a virtual coach or advanced analytic analysis.

    Whoop is also experimenting with network effects through the use of groups within the app to allow users to see the stats and performance data from their friends. One of my roommates has a Whoop band and has become obsessed with not only checking his own daily “recovery scores” but comparing his recovery, sleep, and workout data to other friends with Whoop bands. He constantly shows the band to other people, demonstrating to me that even though the product is expensive it likely has a high Net Promoter Score. It will be interesting to see if Whoop if able to take control of the premium end of the fitness wearable market.

  2. As a loyal Whoop customer that’s part of a “team” I can tell you that the product has all the hallmarks of strong network effects and I can echo the comment above about having a strong Net Promoter Score. Interestingly, the brand doesn’t seem to have an interest in pursuing the casual fitness segment and has recently been pushing towards a more subscription driven service for collegiate and professional sports teams. I know of a few teams that use the product religiously in order to maximize the training schedules of their athletes and ensure that every player is maximizing their recovery.

    One concern I have is the limited potential for learning that can occur with the data that the company collects. Heart rate and heart rate variability don’t appear to have a very high barrier to entry and additional data doesn’t seem to improve the system. While there’s plenty being collected, I don’t really see incremental value.

Leave a comment