Insights May 19, 2020

Gearing up for staying home (and working out)

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By Linnea Dunne

As we’re trying to get used to the new normal of staying at home, so are the world’s sportswear brands. With inspiring messages such as #hometeam and #TheOnlyWayIsThrough, they are promoting physical activity and emphasising community spirit, all the while, crucially, giving their online sales a boost.

The global sportswear market has been booming in the last few years, and in 2019, it generated around $181 billion in revenue, according to market research firm Statista. Like most industries, however, also sportswear is of course heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with closed shops, postponed sports events and cancelled sponsorship deals. So what are brands doing to navigate this new reality of social distancing, consumers in quarantine, and work-from-home lifestyles?

Home, or in some cases outdoor, exercise is one of few pleasures when you’re not allowed to travel, attend concerts and events, or meet loved ones for a night out. As a result, and indeed with gyms closed and group sports temporarily banned, more people than ever are searching the web for home workouts and browsing YouTube for follow-along videos with fitness influencers, celebrities and experts, determined to stay fit during this time of confinement.

With most bricks-and-mortar shops closed, online marketing and social media are key for brands to stay connected to these consumers. Through their online channels, sportswear brands are highlighting the importance of physical activity while stuck at home, offering home workouts and access to training apps, support from expert trainer networks, and inspiration in the form of useful content produced by fitness influencers.

From community spirit to augmented reality

More than just boosting physical and mental health, home workouts have improved the chances for fitness brands to survive by contributing to an increase in the online sales of comfortable, functional and stylish sportswear. As part of this trend, Adidas is collaborating with athletes and creatives to promote the #hometeam community to “gear up” and “stay active at home”. Nike’s message is “play inside, play for the world”, while Under Armour has continued the fitting campaign #TheOnlyWayIsThrough from earlier this year. Similarly, online fashion and cosmetic retailer ASOS, which stocks its own line of activewear and loungewear as well as brands such as Adidas and Nike, is promoting #AtHomeWithASOS.

Campaigns like these, with a finger on the pulse, can be hugely impactful. We saw it first-hand when we worked on the Asics “It’s a big world. Go run it” campaign, transcreating straplines and slogans into nine different languages. But the current crisis is calling for a whole new level of innovation.

Innovating for the future

To ensure operational social distancing, ASOS has started using pictures of models at home and images of items on hangers. The company has also launched augmented reality technology to show what the clothes might look like on your body type. Thanks to this See My Fit technology, there is no need for models to visit the studios – but some brands are taking the pandemic innovation yet another step further. New Balance, for example, is changing its production from sports gear to protective face masks made of sneaker materials for frontline healthcare workers, as per the new campaign message: “Made shoes yesterday. Making masks today.”

Like every cloud, this global crisis may provide somewhat of a silver lining as brands are forced to innovate in order to keep their audiences motivated and entertained. Following the impact of climate change and the pandemic, according to trend forecasting firm Fashion Snoops, consumers are predicted to want sportswear with more protective properties, like fabrics doubling up as a pollution filter, and design will likely need to become even more multifunctional and focus on adaptability, practicality and protection.