Adidas, Under Armour and Nike are setting their sights squarely on the women’s training apparel market this year as they look to exploit the impact the London 2012 Games has had on women in sports without destroying their core proposition. Sports brands marketers’ are, however, wary of striking a balance between softening their masculine image and not resorting to pastel colours and other feminine cliches.
One of the lasting memories of the Games was the measurable impact of women on the event. More women competed than ever before, more women won medals and more women commanded more of the media spotlight.
In addition, women’s sports are gaining a bigger profile in the UK as governing bodies work to encourage women to take up sports. Indeed, women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the world and the third biggest team sport in the UK, according to Sport England.
Adidas is looking to capitalise on this shift by readying a marketing push for the running category this summer that will include activity around its new Boost range. While brand ambassadors such as Laura Trott are likely to be involved, Adidas says it is focused on getting its tone of voice right across all its online channels. The sportswear brand aims to encourage women to share their athletic pursuits and encourage one another throughout its upcoming activity.
A spokesman for Adidas says: “Because of the heritage of the brand we can come across as very masculine. We’re looking at the work we’ve done through our Adidas Originals brand on social media to develop a tone of voice that portrays them in a strong and powerful way.”
Under Armour is using social media as its primary communications channel in its first campaign targeting women. The brand has marketed to women before but never on this scale or with a strategy it claims will “redefine the female athlete”.
A mobile app along with TV advertising is supporting the push promoting its ‘No Matter What, Sweat Every Day’ strapline. Women account for around 30 per cent of athletic apparel sales for Under Armour and the company has identified the category as a key battleground for its aggressive bid to take on Adidas and Nike and believes its women’s business will eventually eclipse its men’s business.
Meanwhile, Nike’s plans to target women with a running category push later this year were given a fillip after the company saw revenues increase 13 per cent in Central and Eastern Europe thanks in part to its women’s training category during its third quarter. Nike says its “women’s running business is incredibly strong” and that it is “starting to scale” its ranges in stores at a “much faster pace”.
The growing profile of women’s sports presents an untapped opportunity for sports brands to eschew their macho image and grow their share of the women’s apparel market. Branding experts say this is not as easy as “signing a high profile athlete” and hoping “it resonates with females”. Instead they claim marketers need to go beyond “superficial” marketing ploys and build strategies around how sports fits in with their active lifestyles.
Simon White, managing director of Momentum UK, warns this process needs to start with good product design and usability, that way marketers “don’t have to separate marketing for men and women”.
He adds: “I don’t think there has ever been a time when there has been so many women [in sport] making big statements to the world. Sports brands are finally realising that women represent not just consumers but also shoppers for the rest of the family and consequently represent a far more lucrative segment than males from a volume perspective.”
Catching women’s attention is not enough for sports brands looking to woo women. To keep it they need to learn from the mistakes of beer brewers when trying to appeal to women and focus on advertising with a gender-specific appeal with an emphasis on usability and the adaptability of the products.