Sportswear rules! Surge continues as data shows what's driving media impact
The latest data report from Launchmetrics shines the spotlight on sportswear and the headlines story is — perhaps unsurprisingly — that athleisure and sneakers continue to be key drivers of the market. But luxury is also making a major impact and sustainability is increasingly making its presence felt.
Importantly for the market, athleisure’s popularity means the sports category is reaching beyond those who take part in sport and its potential remains huge, even after years of growth.
The sportswear market as a whole was worth $185.9 billion in 2022 and is set to grow to be $356 billion by 2032 (source: market.us). But the Launchmetrics report is interesting because it looks at Media Impact Value (MIV) rather than just the overall market value.
To arrive at that MIV, its AI-linked algorithm assigns a monetary value to every post, interaction or article to measure its impact and identify contributions to brand performance across voices, channels and regions.
It analysed over 70 top-performing sportswear brands to identify key industry trends and found that MIV for sportswear showed notable variations in MIV growth across different regions. In 2022, MIV in the Americas rose 7% to $2.7 billion and EMEA rose 4% to $2.2 billion, keeping those two regions as the world’s biggest. But others are catching up. In fact, China surged 52% to $1.8 billion while the rest of APAC jumped 27% to $1.1 billion. If that growth continues this year, they’ll soon rival those more established markets.
It’s interesting too that Nike was the top brand in three of those regions, except for EMA where Adidas took top spot.
The analysis of Voice types in the global sportswear market also showed an intriguing contrast between China and the rest of the world. In China, Influencers rule in driving MIV. But elsewhere, it’s Media that’s the dominant Voice type contributing to MIV.
In 2022 sneakers alone accounted for 43.3% of total MIV in sportswear, and their impact is growing in the luxury sector too. Sneakers accounted for 30.2% of MIV there — “demonstrating the increasing popularity and crossover appeal of sneakers in the global footwear category and opportunity for brands moving forward”.
Describing sneakers generally as a “cultural phenomenon”, Launchmetrics said they’ve “transformed from functional footwear into cultural masterpiece, representing personal style, social status, and a way to connect with a community of like-minded individuals. The Sneakerhead Phenomenon continues to captivate and shape contemporary trends, reflecting the dynamic relationship between sportswear, fashion, and the broader cultural landscape.”
Clearly, Nike and Adidas are the “powerhouse” players here, but Launchmetrics cited designers like the late Virgil Abloh for bringing a fresh perspective to sneaker culture through collaborations that “bridged the gap between high fashion and sneaker culture, making a profound impact on the industry”.
It also cited the collectors and artists who “play a crucial role in shaping the vibrant and ever-evolving world of sneaker culture”. Figures like Sean Wotherspoon “have emerged as influential tastemakers”. His collaborations, such as Adidas x Sean Wotherspoon, generated $3.6 million in MIV in 2022 “and seamlessly blend vintage elements with modern design, resonating with sneaker enthusiasts and contributing to the dynamic landscape of sneaker culture”.
As mentioned, sneakers were hugely important to luxury, especially last year’s Gucci and Adidas link-up that “created a powerful synergy. This collaboration has not only elevated the perception of sportswear but has also generated a significant impact on the fashion landscape”.
Gucci generated $749,000 in MIV with its announcement post on its owned Instagram account. Overall, the collab generated $96.5 million in MIV last year and “accentuated the potential for luxury brands to tap into sneaker culture, redefining the boundaries of luxury fashion and opening doors to new possibilities in the sportswear industry. This trend showcases the evolving dynamics between luxury and streetwear, as well as the increasing influence of sportswear on the fashion world as a whole”.
Of course, it's not all about shoes and other categories have benefited from sports links as well. The Gucci collab included RTW and the Nike x Tiffany collab brought jewellery into the sports sphere and generated $11 million in MIV within just five days of its release. Instagram contributed $5.3 million to its MIV and notably, the announcement placement on Instagram between these two influential brands alone generated $613,000 in MIV.
ATHLEISURE’S SUSTAINABILITY ANGLE
But what about athleisure? Launchmetrics found that athleisure accounted for over $7 billion in global MIV last year.
Mixing athletic apparel with casualwear “has played a significant role in shaping street style and redefining fashion norms,” the report said. “What was once considered niche and limited to urban subcultures has now become a global trend embraced by celebrities, influencers, and industry professionals alike. It has become a significant force in shaping contemporary fashion and challenging traditional notions of what constitutes ‘high fashion’.”
Now, it’s easy to assume that just about everything you could say about athleisure has already been said. But interestingly, the company called out the fact that sustainability is an ever more important factor here.
Again, a no-brainer you might assume, but “it currently accounts for only 1% of all sportswear-related MIV,” the report found. “This highlights the opportunity for brands to further prioritise and promote their sustainable initiatives to not only align with consumer values but also enhance their overall MIV and global industry impact,” we’re told.
And the report added that “when it comes to keywords used in the sportswear industry, there is a growing trend towards incorporating DIY trends to recycle sneakers and fostering sustainable collaborations, alongside the usual 'sustainability' and 'sustainable' keywords. For instance, ‘DIY’ generated $842,000 in MIV and ‘EndPlasticWaste’ generated $1.1 million in MIV in 2022”.
The company said that “gaining insight into the prominence of sustainability within the sportswear industry is crucial for envisioning the future of sustainable practices and understanding how brands will prioritise sustainability in the coming years”.
The data shows Adidas has been a prominent player in promoting sustainability in sportswear through its EndPlasticWaste campaign. However, it’s the RunForTheOceans initiative “that has truly captured attention, making it one of the most frequently discussed topics related to sustainability within the sportswear industry”.
But while Adidas ranks first in terms of MIV related to sustainability, it's also worth noting the share of MIV among the top brands based only on social media activity. Napapijri actually leads the ranking with 8.86% of the total MIV, followed by Picture Organic Clothing with 5.78%, Patagonia with 5.24%, Veja with 3.34%, and Avia with 2.98%.
In the realm of sustainability campaigns, two distinct approaches have emerged. One is seen at Billabong that focuses on leveraging its Owned Media Channels, generating a noteworthy MIV of $32,000 through its Owned Instagram Channel, showcasing the impact of its messaging.
By contrast, Patagonia has adopted a Multi Voice strategy, with a significant portion of its MIV stemming from Media coverage and accounting for more than 50% of its Share of Voice. Notably, its most influential Voice comes from a celeb, Leonardo DiCaprio. With an impressive MIV of $374,000 via one post from his Instagram, “Patagonia exemplifies the success” of its diversified Voice strategy.
But on that subject, it’s worth pointing out that Celebrity Voices saw a decline of 20% year-on-year in MIV to account for 5.1%, “suggesting a shift in consumer perception and engagement with celebrity endorsements in the sportswear space”.
Meanwhile, Influencers saw a 15% rise in MIV to an 18.3% share, “indicating their growing significance as leaders who influence consumer preferences and purchasing decisions”.
Owned Voices saw growth of 20% in MIV to 13.6%, “highlighting the importance of a strong brand presence and direct communication with consumers”; and Partner Voices saw a huge increase of 42% in MIV to 7.3%, emphasising the value of strategic partnerships for boosting brand exposure.
Finally, Media Voices was the leading source of MIV, with a 19% rise to 55.7%, “underscoring the role of traditional and digital media in shaping the narrative and generating engagement for sportswear brands”.
Launchmetrics also said the rise of social media has “significantly impacted sportswear trends and consumer behaviour, particularly with the emergence of fitness influencers, brand ambassadors and media Voices”.
While what it terms All-Star Influencers continue to generate the highest absolute volume of MIV for sportswear brands, their Share of Voice is falling. But Micro Influencers are witnessing substantial growth in their MIV shares (up 52% to take their share from 7% to 10%).
This shift indicates the “rising influence and effectiveness of Micro Influencers in reaching niche audiences and delivering authentic content that resonates”.
It cited the huge impact Fabletics made via Micro Influencer Crystal Daniels with a modest following of 15,000 on Instagram, Daniels generated $181K in MIV on Instagram alone.
But Launchmetrics also called out some much bigger names in sportswear who are making an impact.
They include Serena Williams who “generated outstanding MIV in 2022 for Nike”. From her posts alone, she generated $995,000 but the total collaboration amounted to $369.94 million.
And while it cited major players like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour as the most impactful companies, it also highlighted the impact of 11-year-old upstart Gymshark, which “has effectively collaborated with a wide range of influential fitness and lifestyle personalities, utilising [its] platforms to amplify Gymshark's message and products”. According to Launchmetrics’ data, influencers are responsible for 51% of the brand’s total MIV, 180% higher than the average Share of Value for its price point.
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