Born Primitive: 882% Growth in Two Years, Increased Profitability & Crushing COVID-19

Born Primitive

Fitness Apparel


Full Service Growth

The Brand

Founded in 2014 by Bear and Mallory Handlon, Born Primitive is an athlete-driven, patriot-inspired fashion brand designed to perform in critical moments of physical challenge.

As an active duty owned-and-operated company, it inspires customers by exemplifying the values of the men and women who’ve inspired them — sacrifice, honor, and willingness to defend our freedoms at all costs.

More than a manufacturer of clothing, Born Primitive is a community of people that embrace a way of life. 

“Our apparel is made for athletes of all sizes and skill levels and designed to perform in those critical moments of mental and physical distress when the battle is won—or lost,” said CEO Bear Handlon.

The Challenge

Born Primitive arrived at CTC in early 2018 and by 2019, sales nearly doubled year-over-year.

Going into 2020, Born Primitive was on track to keep the momentum going; with a dream of achieving 50% growth at 20% margin. 

“Using Facebook, we are able to engage people in our community where we challenge them to stay driven and relentlessly strive to achieve the goals they set” said Handlon. “We’re also able to provide them with workout apparel that was built to support that same mentality.”

But, raw growth doesn’t tell the whole story.

Born Primitive total sales over time quarterly report

In fashion, not all products are created equal. As Born Primitive scaled, a troubling pattern emerged: certain SKUs dominated at the top of the funnel — high ROAS, conversion rates, and AOV — yet didn’t yield strong LTV.

For others, it was the opposite.

After two years of record-breaking … Born Primitive set its sights on a notoriously difficult combination: continued top-line growth and increased profitability.

The Solution

To tackle profitable growth, CTC and Born Primitive restructured the customer journey around 60-day payback windows.

At the top of the funnel, this meant featuring SKUs with high AOV and return-customer rates. It also meant optimizing the journey from ad to site to post-purchase:

Born Primitive Organic Instagram and Landing Page

At the bottom of the funnel, new customers were then nurtured through an ambassador program, SMS and email marketing, as well as VIP access.

Born Primitive - Ambassador, SMS, and VIP

To expand its channels, the brand pivoted to using paid social for demand generation — with hard customer exclusions in prospecting, only targeting existing customers through non-paid efforts. And for demand capture: paid search.

Then, the world changed …

Like all fashion labels, coronavirus hit Born Primitive hard. Because gyms closed down, the effects were compounded.

March 16th was the single worst day in company history. Within that challenge, however, lay a massive opportunity.

Turned off by standard “work out at home” campaigns, Bear Handlon — Born Primitive’s CEO — decided to do something in service to his brand’s suffering community: a 50%-profit-sharing initiative with gyms across the United States, many of whom were struggling to stay in business during COVID-19.

“We were all in on one idea. I really had no idea how it was gonna go. But I just said, “F*** it. Let’s just go for it,” said Handlon. “It was all in. All or nothing.”

For creative, Bear and Born Primitive’s athletes shot short explainer videos, launched them organically, and rapidly scaled spend:

Would it work?

The Results

With “Back the Gyms” as its COVID-19 cornerstone, Born Primitive and CTC transformed March 16th’s all-time low into an all-time high with …

  • More than 230% YoY growth by April
  • 16.31 ROAS during the two-week campaign
  • And, in the end, over $180k in donations to local gyms

“We didn’t launch this initiative as a way to figure out how much money we could make. We launched it as a way to help people in need within our community and give back,” said Handlon.

“My biggest advice would be to think about how you can support people in need and rally your community to join you.”

Back the Gyms revealed something more meaningful about Born Primitive’s audience than the numbers behind their buying behavior.

With uncertainty in the fitness apparel community, customers are looking for ways to unite — Born Primitive filled that desire by connecting its product with a cause both the customers and the brand cared about.

One-off campaigns, however, are no measure of overall success.

What about the brand’s larger vision?

From its original dream of 50% YoY growth at 20% margin, 2020 sales have jumped 201.33% across three geographic markets.

Even stronger, since partnering with CTC in 2018, Born Primitive has increased …

Average quarterly sales by 882.11% with 30% year-to-date margins.

Born Primitive Case Study By the Numbers

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