Where the Fashion World meets the Sponsorship World
The line between celebrity and athletes has grown increasingly blurry over the past number of years. It is common to see athletes on Late Night TV or attend the latest Hollywood award shows. This environment - typical reserved for actors and actresses - has given athletes the opportunity to showcase their fashion sense off the field of play. This shift has led to a number of fashion brands to consider investing in sports marketing and sponsorship. Whether it is Genie Bouchard on the cover of Flare magazine or GQ hosting an NBA All-Star party, fashion and sports are mixing more than ever before.
How Fashion Brands Are Leveraging Sports
Team Sponsorship- Athletic brands that are endemic to sports such as Nike and Under Armour are commonly seen as team and league sponsors, however, there has been a trend of non-athletic brands entering into team sponsorships as well. Europe, commonly thought of for its fashion influence, is home to many sporting teams that have a fashion brand on their sponsor roster. Dolce and Gabana which is headquartered in Milan, Italy has been a sponsor of the soccer team AC Milan since 2004. Beginning in 2014 Hugo Boss has been a sponsor of Paris soccer team PSG and finally this month luxury footwear brand HERO became a sponsor of Manchester United. All are globally recognized soccer teams and are located in fashion forward markets.
Player Sponsorship- While fashion brands sponsoring teams have been typically reserved to European soccer teams, in North America it is more common to see fashion brands enlist athletes either as a spokesperson or as a consultant in the creation of new products. Luxury footwear brand Cole Haan launched a line of footwear which tennis star Maria Sharapova helped design. Having the athlete aid in the design process can create a true partnership and bring more authenticity to the clothing line.
Sports Association Sponsorship- The Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics always attracts significant attention across the world. In recent years, fashion brands have sought to capitalize on this attention by rolling out compelling team uniforms on the world stage. During the Sochi Winter Olympics, the American team was outfitted by Ralph Lauren and the Canadians were outfitted by Hudson’s Bay.
Benefits of Leveraging Sports for Fashion Brands
Leverage a Mass Platform- Fashion brands typically use fashion model in their ads. But for certain consumers, this may not be as impactful an influence on their behaviour. However, by partnering with an athlete or sports organization, a fashion brand can find an effective way to tap into a mass audience and capitalize off of their high recognition. Not only will this audience be inherently larger due to the mass appeal of sports, but it will likely also provide exposure to net-new consumers previously not exposed to the brand.
Sports Are a Symbol of Health & Wellness- Athletes are generally thought of as the standard for health and fitness. Whether it is a Olympic sprinter or a soccer player, athletes generally have a body most people strive for. Through recruiting an athlete to appear in a fashion brand's marketing, they can create an aspriational message.
Emerging Trends to Watch in the Fashion / Sports Intersect
As fashion and sports continue to blend, a few notable trends have begun to emerge.
Athletic Brands playing in Fashion- As much as fashion brands are looking to the world of sports for new sponsorships, athletic brands are also looking to the world of fashion for inspiration. Fashion forward figures like Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams are part of Adidas’ endorsement roster and Jamie Foxx has appeared in a number of Under Armour spots.
More Niche Categories- As athletes have become seen as fashion figures, they have begun to utilize their image in more than just one apparel category. It used to be common for an athlete to have one apparel sponsor, but now many athletes have multiple. Tennis player Rafael Nadal is sponsored by Nike but also has an underwear line with Tommy Hilfiger. This allows Nadal to fully utilize his image as a fashion icon, promoting multiple apparel brands.
Athletes Interested in Non-Athletic Ventures- Whether it is due to a desire to increase their earning potential, hedge the risk of injuries, or set themselves up for a post-athletic career, athletes are increasingly finding ways to diversify their brand. Fashion partnerships helps athletes craft an image that transcends sports.
As fashion brands begin to look outside the world of fashion to market themselves, athletes have been willing to demonstrate their fashion sense through brand partnerships. Whether it is walking the red carpet or arriving at the game, athletes continue to provide fashion brands with new and effective platforms to reach new audiences.