The secret to building a successful sportswear brand

We've seen hundreds of brands succeed and even more fail, so in this blog we discuss what those who've succeeded have done and how it's helped their brand.
4 minute read

How to build a successful sportswear brand

In today's competitive market, building a successful sportswear brand requires more than just designing stylish apparel.

It demands a well-thought-out strategy, effective marketing, and a deep understanding of the target audience.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, this article will provide you with valuable insights and practical tips on how to build a sportswear brand that resonates with consumers, stands out from the competition, and ultimately leads to success in the ever-evolving world of athletic fashion.

What is a successful sportswear brand?

The term success is subjective.

What some deem as successful might be seen as a failure for someone else, however, in the world of business the term "success" is used interchangeably with growth, sales and profitability.

Examples of successful sportswear brands

  1. Nike - Nike is a global powerhouse in the sportswear industry, known for its innovative designs, cutting-edge technology, and iconic logo. Founded in 1964, Nike has built a strong brand image by sponsoring top athletes, investing in high-profile marketing campaigns, and creating products that cater to athletes of all levels.
  2. Adidas - Adidas is another leading sportswear brand that has made its mark in the industry. Established in 1949, Adidas is known for its quality products, timeless designs, and global brand presence. They have successfully partnered with athletes, sports teams, and celebrities to create unique and impactful marketing campaigns throughout the years. Adidas is also recognised for using sustainable fabrics, and practices to produce eco-friendly sportswear.
  3. Under Armour - Under Armour is a relatively newer player in the sportswear market, founded in only in 1996. However, it has rapidly gained popularity for its performance-focused apparel, particularly in the realm of athletic compression wear. Under armour has been a big player in the sponsorship of professional athletes, especially in boxing to build a brand around being the go-to-sportswear brand for athletes who demand the very best from their garments.
  4. Lululemon - Lululemon is a premium sportswear brand that has gained a strong following in yoga and athleisure. Founded in 1998, Lululemon is known for its fashionable and functional activewear, as well as its emphasis on mindfulness and well-being - they focus on minimalistic clothing utilising high quality materials and trims to ensure a timeless design that stands the test of time. They have built a loyal customer base through community engagement, offering free yoga classes, and creating a distinct brand culture that resonates with their target audience.
  5. Gymshark - Gymshark is a rapidly growing sportswear brand that has gained a massive following among fitness enthusiasts and gym-goers. Established in 2012, Gymshark has quickly become known for its stylish and functional activewear that caters to the fitness community. Their USP (unique selling proposition) was around creating aesthetic clothing for the gym industry in a time when brands were producing oversized, simple garments for the average bodybuilder. They have effectively utilised social media platforms, particularly Instagram, to connect with their target audience, featuring fitness influencers and athletes wearing their products. Their agile and customer-centric approach has allowed them to disrupt the traditional sportswear market and build a loyal customer base.

What do these successful sportswear brands have in common?

The successful sportswear brands mentioned above share several common elements that have contributed to their growth and success:

  1. Strong brand identity: Each of these brands has a clear and distinctive brand identity that resonates with their target audience. This is reflected in their logo, slogan, messaging, and overall brand image, which helps them stand out in the competitive sportswear market.
  2. Quality products: These brands are known for their high-quality products that meet the needs and expectations of their customers. They put product quality above all else and ensure they are constantly providing value for money to the end consumer.
  3. Marketing and endorsements: These brands effectively leverage marketing and endorsements to build their brand awareness and connect with their target audience. They all used marketing in their own unique way to carve out their approach to acquiring new customers throughout their brand development.
  4. Community engagement: Successful sportswear brands focus on building a strong community around their brand. They engage with their customers through any means necessary and host events which are aimed at driving brand awareness and community engagement - this reinforces the power of the brand and association with sportswear and the brand that is hosting these events.
  5. Adaptability and agility: These brands are adaptable and agile, keeping up with the evolving market trends and consumer preferences. They are quick to embrace changes, invest into technologies and remain ahead of the competition.
How does this apply to my sportswear brand?

The above commonalities between some of the most successful sportswear brands across the globe also apply to startup sportswear brands. Time and resources should be spent developing the following from day one;

  • Developing a brand identity: This is more than just a logo and colour pallet - this stems from consumer and market research to understand what emotions you want to evoke when your customer buys from your brand.
  • Focusing on quality: Premium garments are expensive to manufacturer, especially when starting out with smaller quantities but investing into high quality producing will pay dividends in the long run as you'll become known for the longevity of products, and attention to detail and workmanship.
  • Don't ignore marketing: Having a great product is one thing, but having a excellent marketing campaign is another - you can't have a successful sportswear brand with one and not the other.
  • Focus on building a community: A small community is better than none at all. Build out a community, regardless of how small and be inclusive - use their feedback to drive brand innovation.
  • Be agile: Agility is a startups best friend; you run a lean operation, so you can more adaptable than larger corporations - lean into this to ensure you remain ahead of the curve with market trends and competition.
Concluding the secrets to building a successful sportswear brand

Building a successful sportswear brand comes down to more than just having a good product, or a great name.

It is a byproduct of innovation, product/market fit, a strong community, agility and most importantly; a great product and even better brand.

This can be achieved over the years, but priority should be focused on the above areas when starting out to maximise your chances of success in the industry.

About the author
Anthony Mellor

Anthony Mellor is a fashion entrepreneur, writer and consultant. Anthony writes in-depth articles about topics related to fashion, business and supply chains.

Anthony successfully scaled and exited a D2C fashion brand at the young age of 20. Since then, he's gone onto start and successfully operate two multi-6-figure clothing manufacturing businesses and currently offers up one-to-one constancy to brand owners.

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