Under Armour, a key player in sportswear industry. Source: Under Armour’s official Weibo Account
The pandemic boosts sportswear sales
According to the “2020 Sportswear Report” published by global fashion search platform Lyst, the search volume of sportswear on the platform has increased by 59% since the beginning of this year. 35 sports leggings are sold every hour, and the search volume for keywords such as “shaping” and “lifting” has increased by 392% during the past three months.
This trend is not recent though – according to Euromonitor, sportswear sales has grew faster in China than sales of luxury goods for the past five years. It is especially the case during the pandemic. In February 2020, Taobao’s “Sports/Yoga/Fitness” category witnessed a 213% increase in transaction value during live streaming sessions, and JD.com ’s sportswear sales also recorded double-digit growth during the Spring Festival.
Several factors together contributed to the boom. As wellness gradually becomes the new status symbol in China, especially in first-tier cities, people’s aspirations on this topic are growing. In this case, how to fully strengthen brand images and enhance interactions with customers is the breaking point during the pandemic.
Educating customers is a way of enhancing brand image
As a pioneer of professional sportswear, Under Armour launched an online “Cloud Fitness” campaign in the Chinese market since January 31, collaborating with fitness experts and sports KOLs to create video tutorials, online live fitness classes and Weibo 21-day Fitness Challenge, etc. The initiatives gained total view of 70 million, attracting more than 600,000 sports enthusiasts to participate.
Same online training sessions are also delivered by Lululemon. Speaking of the differences between Lululemon, the Canada-based athletic apparel retailer specialized in yoga wear, and Under Armour, many may hold the views that Lululemon is more about yoga and athleisure lifestyle, whereas Under Armour is more dedicated to professionalism, specializing in functional sportswear.
Although Lululemon’s share price saw a considerable increase in the past two months, Simeon Siegel, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, believes that Lululemon is the winner of the “staying home” trend in the pandemic as the yoga wear is essentially comfortable wear at home, and that the current share price is mainly driven by the short-lived outbreak of “staying home” demand.
But the fact is that both Under Armour and Lululemon are leaning more on Chinese market for better sales.
How Under Armour is playing in the Chinese market
Besides the “Cloud Fitness” campaign, Under Armour is emphasizing Chinese market in different aspects. From the marketing side, Under Armour last year signed Ting Zhu, the Captain of the Chinese women’s volleyball national team, and Chaoyue Yang, a popular idol with 10 million Weibo followers, as ambassadors, targeting both young potential consumers and fitness enthusiasts.
As for the e-commerce, apart from the official website, Under Armour also launched a WeChat Mini Program Mall to diversify its online retail channel, and established Tmall exclusive membership program to integrate Tmall consumers with its official CRM during the 3.8 Women’s Day shopping festival.
As COVID-19 is raising more people’s awareness regarding physical fitness, the sportswear market will certainly continue to thrive. Though fashion may still be a key element of athleisure in a while, the everlasting driving force of a sportswear company will still be the professionalism.