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Want Apparel that Resonates? Think Brand Names, Sustainability, Local Sources

17 Oct, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The T-shirt, that accepted (even expected) aspect of sports event swag, just got put on notice. Today’s athletes expect name brands. They may even expect sustainable or locally-sourced clothing. As an event organizer seeking a younger demographic, you’ll want to read this article if you want to score points.

It’s all part of the revelations in Stifel’s inaugural Athletic Apparel and Footwear Consumer Survey, and it points to much higher spending intentions for athletic apparel in the next six months and a more modestly higher purchase intent around athletic footwear. And in that is a lesson for planners of sports events: today’s athlete and consumer wants name brands that reflect current styles.

In other words, if you want young people to wear it, ditch the idea of that cotton T-shirt with no logo.

According to the survey, quoted in an article in SGB Online, Nike is most often cited as the primary brand for both athletic footwear (40 percent of the target population including 49 percent for Gen Z) and athletic apparel (40 percent of the target population including 52 percent for Gen Z). And if you’re doubting Nike’s commitment to a broader audience, consider this: the company debuted a swoosh-marked hijab for women.

The brand’s popularity skews towards high-value consumers who self-identify their personal style as “on-trend.”

The Nike demographic breakdown is as follows:

  • 56 percent: Black/African-American (this group selected Nike as their primary brand)

  • 50 percent-plus: Other minorities

  • 40 percent: Average population

  • 37 percent: White/Caucasian

“We view this as interesting context for Nike’s recent bold marketing alignment with Colin Kaepernick’s social activist protest messaging (the survey was conducted prior to the launch of the ad campaign). Of note, U.S. census projections call for those who identify as non-White/Caucasian and under 40 years old to represent more than 50 percent of the under-40 US population in five years,” wrote Stifel’s lead analyst Jim Duffy in the report.

Under Armour is the second most popular athletic apparel brand. Fourteen percent of men and 13 percent of women selected Under Armour as their primary athletic apparel brand, and popularity skewed towards millennials. The brand scored higher-than-average net promoter scores (32 percent vs. 30 percent average) despite its recent challenges. Seventy-three percent of those who selected Under Armour as their primary brand indicate they like everything about the brand (vs. 68 percent average for all brands). The survey showed Under Armour has a below-average reputation for comfort and fit with women and also a low promoter score in footwear.

Adidas was the #3 footwear brand (selected as primary brand of 10 percent of the target population), the #2 men’s apparel brand (selected as primary brand by 17 percent of men) and the #4 women’s apparel brand (selected as the primary brand by 10 percent of women). For footwear, the brand was more popular across younger age cohorts and scored high with urban consumers.

Among other brands:

  • Vans was identified as the primary brand by 2 percent of respondents despite the questionnaire focus on athletic footwear. Gen Z who report currently wearing Vans (39 percent) is second only to Nike (77 percent).

  • The North Face was selected by 3 percent of the sample as the primary athletic apparel brand and 6 percent for Urban consumers. The brand’s net promoter score registered well above average for both women and men.

  • Lululemon was selected as the primary athletic apparel brand by just 1 percent of the survey but earned an extremely high net promoter score (53 percent vs. 30 percent apparel average). Fit, comfort, performance, technology and style attributes all ranked high as attributes.

  • New Balance, trailing only Nike, ranks second amongst footwear brands in terms of primary brand, although the brand skews noticeably older than average with White/Caucasian preference. Brand quality and value were called out as top attributes.

  • Skechers is the #4 ranked primary footwear brand and particularly popular with Gen X women.

  • Hoka earned high ratings on comfort, fit and quality, although it failed to crack the top-15 list of primary footwear brands.

  • Brand Jordan is the #9 ranked primary footwear brand and trended younger, male, urban and Black/African-American. Jordan ranked only behind Brooks in highest average footwear brand spend.

  • Champion was recognized as the primary athletic apparel brand by 5 percent of consumers and landed at #5 overall although that brand still has relatively low brand awareness with Gen-Z.

Other brands mentioned were store/retailer brand, Champion, Reebok, Puma, Athleta, Gap Active, Fabletics, Jordan and “other.”

While big-name brands are obviously favored, it is essential to know the audience and their political leanings. The 2018 Edelman Earned Brand Study, released last week, found that about 64 percent of consumers will purchase from (or boycott) brands due to news occurrences and their personal stance. (The Nike/Kaepernick brand alliance was embraced by some consumers and spurned by others.)

Additioally, sustainable clothing, locally-sourced materials or clothing from local vendors, ethically-sourced, free-trade items  and more -- rather than overseas mass marketing -- also resonate with crowds, particularly those in the Millennial demographic. 

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