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Digital IQ Index®: Sportswear 2015

In 2014, the activewear category was immune from the yearlong slump in U.S. apparel sales, growing a robust +7 percent.

As Sportswear brands exert greater influence beyond the gym, the category attracts new players.

H&M launched its new Sport collection in January 2014, Uniqlo and Forever 21 have been stepping up their activewear mix, and upscale fashion brand Tory Burch announced an activewear line for 2015.

In an effort to defend their turf, Sportswear brands rely on muscle memory and are engaged in an escalating ad war that promote traditional branding at the expense of accelerating digital commerce.

In August, Adidas announced it would increase its advertising spend from $1.9B in 2014 to nearly $2.2B in 2015 (or 14% of total revenues), and funnel more dollars to sponsorships of American athletes.

Nike is holding its ad budget at 11% of revenues, which at $3B puts them in a league of their own.

Meanwhile, prioritization of e-commerce has been mixed.

Nike’s sales from e-commerce were up 42 percent in fiscal 2014, to just under $800 million—but this represents only 3 percent of total revenues.

Even if the Portland firm meets its target of $2 billion in e-commerce sales by 2017, the market leader will still trail the average ratio of e-commerce to offline sales in broader retail.

Last April, Nike announced its exit from the wearable device market, shifting the game from hardware to software development. The abrupt change in strategy signaled brands are no longer competing for accessory sales—but for user acquisition.

In February 2015 Under Armour doubled down on its efforts to build the world’s largest digital fitness community announcing acquisition of two mobile fitness app companies for a combined $560m – gaining access to 90 million registered users.

This year's Genius circle featured three incumbents. Nike continues as the gold standard for online product customization and mobile training tools.

North Face and adidas share second place, delivering sophisticated assisted sales tools and strong social engagement through key partners.

LL Bean joins the genius ranks demonstrating sophistication across both search visibility and email marketing.

This study attempts to quantify the digital competence of 59 sportswear brands in the U.S. market.

The report can be downloaded at:

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