Sportswear sponsorship deals are increasing in value and the influence of sportswear brands over the sporting world is ever-growing. However, the two biggest sportswear brands struggle to differentiate themselves from one another, suggesting that changing tack to more realistic heroes may provide an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Sponsorship deals growing and influence rising

It has been commonplace for sports stars to be linked with sportswear brands for many years, but the size of these deals are continually reaching new highs: in May 2017, NFL player Odell Beckham Jr signed a deal with Nike potentially worth $48 million.

In addition to sums of money rising, the influence of sportswear brands is also increasing. When French footballer Paul Pogba was transferred to English Premier League club Manchester United from Juventus in the summer of 2016, it was adidas who made the first announcement about his future, showing how the brand has a huge influence in the way the footballer presents himself to the public.

Nike and adidas in same terms

The two biggest sportswear brands, Nike and adidas, lead the way in many different attributes within the fashion sector, yet Mintel’s Brand Leaders 2016 Report reveals that they struggle to fully differentiate themselves due to very similar brand images.

In order to drive home any advantage possible, more importance is being placed on sponsorships and tie-ups with external parties, particularly in an attempt to influence young people as they strive to be like their heroes. However, this fight for prominent, highly-paid sports stars is also likely to contribute to a lack of differentiation between the brands.

Celebrating everyday heroes

Brands have started to look elsewhere in order to create some sort of differentiation, such as through fashion collaborations to match demand for sportswear products for non-sports use. The comfort and functionality of sportswear has seen a rise in the number of people wearing sports-style clothing as they go about their day-to-day lives, with Mintel’s UK Sports Goods Retailing 2016 Report highlighting that 50% of consumers who have bought goods in the last 12 months did so for non-sport use.

Alongside this, brands could promote everyday heroism as something that everyone can achieve, not just those with fame or massive amounts of money. With the heroism of the emergency services particularly prominent in the current climate, especially due to recent incidents in the UK, sportswear brands could create marketing campaigns that focus on everyday heroes, such as police, fire and paramedic services. The combination of high sports achievement and everyday heroism could help to build a rounded image of success and aspiration, while offering a more grounded proposition that is not centred on wealth and fame.

Richard specialises in researching and providing insight around UK brands across a number of different categories, and in January 2016 also became Mintel’s Household Care Analyst. Richard joined Mintel in May 2011 after graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree in Management from Royal Holloway, University of London.

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