Athleisure: 4 things sweatpants can teach us about branding


“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”
- We all know it: The famous quote from the world-renowned fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who recently passed away.

Despite the designers’ strong opinion about casual attire, sweatpants, leggings, and sneakers have long become essential garments in our everyday lives, regardless of whether we go shopping, for a walk or to work. The great success of brands like adidas or Lululemon is based on fashion collections made for both intensive workouts and light movements for so-called “versatile athletes” (people who wear the same clothing item all the time - no matter the activity) - only one of many indications for the popularity of "Athleisure", a combination of the words athletic and leisure

Fitness and outdoor clothing is the “go-to” fashion in the U.S.

A new study about Sports Brands in the U.S. shows that 65% of the U.S. population  wears sports clothing and shoes primarily in everyday life - exercise is only secondary. The figures prove the popularity of this fashion trend: The revenue of the Outdoor and Sports segments in the U.S. will amount to 21 Mio. Euro in 2019, in European market it will come out to about 10 Mio. Euro and counting (Germany: 2.219 Mio. Euro).

Consumer and decision behavior is based on emotions 

Above all, the study produces useful insights regarding consumer behavior of the U.S. population: 

  • More than half of the respondents preferably buy their sporting equipment in a department store (55%), specialist stores (46%) or in outlet centers (32%) nearby. Online-stores like Amazon (41%) or manufacturer’s online stores (23%) come second. The simple explanation: 71% buy sporting goods in a physical store because they can touch the product and try it on. Additionally, they don’t have to wait until the item is delivered (38%). Those who buy their products online do so to save time (45%) or to buy at cheaper prices (41%). 

  • Regarding the choice of brand the study shows that 36% of the respondents look at brands they already know. 32% primarily consider brands they believe to be of high quality. 31% trust their personal experience with the brand. 25% go with their gut while 21% think about the reputation of the brand. 

  • When it comes to the purchase decision, comfort (66%), good fit (61%), durability (50%) and high quality (46%) are the most important factors for the respondents. 

“But what do these facts and figures mean? How can I use them for my own brand?”, you may ask. Don't worry, we put together the most important learnings: 

The best of both worlds

Fact: Even though the digital transformation is still ongoing (and will be for a long time), physical touch points are still of utmost importance for the consumers’ experience of brands and services. That’s why choosing between online and offline channels is not a battle between “good” and “bad”. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For example: Your customers like to shop online to save time. Simultaneously, they would like to try the clothing items on and “experience” them physically before purchasing in order to see whether they fit or not.   

One possible solution to maximise value for your customer? Offering a “Click-and-Collect” option. Customers can shop all your products online, have the selected pieces delivered to one of your stores nearby, try them on, and (if necessary) exchange them. Thus, you do your customers a favour and help them find their perfectly fitting item.  

Curious? In our blog post “Are You Online?” you can find further information on the potential of multi-channel strategies. 

Your values and emotions are the foundation

Brand awareness, reputation and trust - all three of the determining factors behind consumer decisions named in the study are based on emotions. The findings confirm our concept of Identity Based Thinking at OAGM: We are convinced that a distinctive brand philosophy and unique values create brand recognition and trust. Your brand strategy should enable the long-term establishment of a brand image that evokes emotions and addresses the needs of your customers. Our concept for the outdoor clothing brand Elkline is one example of how our approach can be implemented effectively.

The goal: Turning customer satisfaction into customer loyalty 

High quality, reliability and durability are essential. Only if customers are satisfied with the product, they will purchase your brands’ products repeatedly. Once you have managed to reach this first step, you can use it to further amplify the potential of your brand: Make your customers’ belief in your brand part of a loyalty program that is based on emotions. Interested? To find out more about how to develop a successful loyalty program step by step, read our latest white paper “How customer loyalty works”.  

Athleisure addresses the basic human needs

Consumers want to feel comfortable and good in their clothes. Brands should not only address these needs in their communication strategies, but also set an example by the way they act. Functional product features are interchangeable - emotions, values and attitude are not. All the more important is it that brands refer to their core values in order to address basic human needs to differentiate themselves. 

No matter if with or without sweatpants - with these learnings you can strengthen your brand and create added value for your customers, online and offline.