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Calm Wants to Become the Nike of Mental Fitness

Calm leads the charge in mental fitness

Calm Wants to Become the Nike of Mental Fitness
Calm // Illustration by Kate Walker

Calm leads the charge in mental fitness

The Future. Mental health startup Calm wants to become the Nike of mental fitness, using marketing and partnerships to not just prop up its own business, but also to drive meaningful conversation around the psychological toll of achievement. With a newfound cultural focus on professional wellbeing, Calm has the chance to be the brand ambassador of the movement.

The Osaka Factor
In a fast-moving culture, even Calm responds to the urgency of a moment.

  • When Naomi Osaka famously withdrew from the French Open due to mental health, Calm donated $15K — the amount of Osaka’s fine — to French mental health organization Laureus Sport.
  • The company also said it would pay the fines of any players that bowed out of the contest’s media appearances and match those fines with further donations.
  • The decisions were made in less than 48 hours — lightning quick for a company worth $2 billion and preparing for an IPO.
  • The move, praised by athletes and pundits, garnered the company $28 million worth of “attention,” according to media monitoring firm, Critical Mention.

Additionally, the company’s “15 seconds of Calm” commercials that played on CNN during the lead-up to the presidential election was a homerun for the platform, sending the app up 54 spots in the App Store rankings.

Health helmet
Monica Austin, Calm’s global head of marketing and communications, said that the quick decisions and cultural responses are reflective of the company’s “50-50 strategy.” What does that actually mean? Well, half the time, Calm plans its marketing campaigns, while the other half it leans into “where the conversation is happening in culture, while sticking to our mission to destigmatize the conversation around mental health.”

According to co-founder and co-CEO Michael Acton Smith, this  flexibility is all part of Calm’s vision for becoming the Nike of mental health. Smith praises how Nike’s marketing and partnerships have  mainstreamed physical fitness, sprinkling “a lot of cool on it.”

In 2021, mental fitness is the new trend, and Calm wants to be leading the conversation.