When he moved home from Stanford University to take over his uncle’s company, one accomplished triathlete probably did not expect to ever be an official partner of the US Olympic Team. First of all, it was a plastic fishing line company. Second of all, Motokuni Takaoka is Japanese.
But Airweave, the high-tech woven premium mattress brand that Takaoka grew from that fishing line company, is now a mainstay in athletic circuits worldwide. Airweave mattress toppers — portable mattresses with an interwoven core and a hard and soft side — can be found in US Olympic Training Centers, the Paris Opera Ballet School, The Royal Ballet School in London and the Brazilian national soccer team. Team Japan, of course, has been sponsored by Airweave, while Team USA has its own $1,060 Top portable mattress for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Literally supporting athletes and having their backs, the brand, you might say, is on a roll.
— airweave USA (@airweaveUSA) July 21, 2016
It may not be as high-profile as the Nike-Under Armor Rio 2016 ad war, but as an official partner of the US Swimming and US Volleyball teams, the eco-friendly Airweave will soon be on its way to Brazil. The mattress brand is messaging with endorsements from US Gold Medal Swimmer Gary Hall Jr.
— airweave USA (@airweaveUSA) July 20, 2016
During the recent Olympic trials, star US swimmer Ryan Lochte tweeted his Airweave love. Team USA swimmer Jessica Long is also a spokesperson during the brand’s promotional “Road to Rio” campaign.
— airweave USA (@airweaveUSA) July 16, 2016
Long, a swimmer who has broken dozens of world records, is a Paralympian whose legs were amputated below the knee at 18 months (she was born in Russia, adopted by American parents and born without bones in her ankles and feet). The weight distribution of the Airweave has helped both her total body, as well as her shoulders, and she says no longer wakes up in pain since using her Top mattress, taking it wherever she goes on the training, qualifying and speaking circuit.
— Ryan Lochte (@RyanLochte) June 26, 2016
The brand hopes this summer Olympics will have the same sales push/success in the US that it had in Japan just after the London 2012 Games, which saw a fourth-month back order thanks to the buzz, as well as inspired partnerships with major hotel chains like the Andaz as well as Japan Airlines, where it’s used on all international overnight flights.
We caught up with Airweave’s founder and CEO to talk about Rio 2016, the importance of sleeping well (especially for athletes), the cutthroat mattress landscape—and where he expects the Airweave brand to land beyond the Olympic Rings.
brandchannel: What is Airweave doing specifically for athletes in Rio?
Motokuni Takaoka (below, with Jessica Long): Airweave is the official mattress supplier of the USOC, and has sponsorship deals in place with multiple governing bodies, included USA Swimming, USA Diving, and USA Volleyball to name a few. We also have partnerships with the athletes, including Ryan Lochte and Bubba Watson. We will supply nearly 3,000 top mattresses to athletes around the world competing in Rio.
Athletes are very sensitive to the needs of their bodies, especially during competition, so we are committed to giving them the best night’s sleep while in Rio. It’s my hope we will see many athletes return not only with their Airweave portables, but also medals in hand.
brandchannel: How would you sum up Airwave’s brand?
Takaoka: At Airweave, we believe Tomorrow Starts Tonight. Mattress shopping in the US has always been about how it feels when you climb into bed. Really, it should be about how you feel when you wake up. I inherited my uncle’s fishing line business and imagined a new way to sleep by re-purposing the material to create a mattress that has a core made of 90% air.
brandchannel: Does Airweave have a store in the US, and what’s your growth opportunity in the US?
Takaoka: Yes, our flagship store is in Soho (in New York City). You can also purchase Airweave in BoConcept stores in New York and New Jersey. Airweave has a strong following in Japan, and I was excited to bring the company to the US. We are utilizing cutting-edge Japanese technology to bring something different to the market, so our biggest opportunity has been educating US customers.
brandchannel: Casper, Tuft & Needle, Hastens—the premium mattress landscape has never seemed more competitive. Beyond the Olympics, how is Airweave distinguishing itself in the market?
Takaoka: You don’t have to be an athlete to appreciate the benefits of a great night’s sleep. And though there are more options than ever, most are foam or spring. At its core, Airweave is completely different than other mattresses on the market. Also our products are based in science. We have partnered with IMG Academy to conduct sleep studies that demonstrate the unique benefits, and recently aligned with Dr. Rebecca Robins of NYU Medical Center to help educate customers on the importance of sleep.
brandchannel: Where does Airweave hope to be in the USA in the next 3 to 5 years?
Takaoka: It is my hope that Airweave will transform the way the US thinks about sleep—and to have the cult following we’ve achieved in Japan would also be nice. Partnerships are an important part of our work. Athletes were among the first to fall in love with our top mattresses, and though the mattresses are good for everyone, we will continue to fuel America’s elite athletes with a good night’s sleep.