Three Influencer-Approved Activewear Brands Pulling Ahead in 2021
Following gym closures in 2020, at-home workout content took over social media. Even with pandemic-related restrictions easing in 2021, health and fitness have remained top-of-mind for influencers and consumers. As more people embrace exercise as a social (rather than socially distant) activity, activewear labels that help individuals sweat in style are riding a wave of online interest. With the market for athletic apparel more crowded than ever, brands are capturing content creators’ attention with increasingly thoughtful, innovative marketing strategies.
In this article, I’ll unpack how three leading activewear brands—Puma, New Balance, and Alo Yoga—are winning over influencers with unique initiatives, and powering growth in Earned Media Value (EMV). Additionally, I’ll outline steps that other brands can take to strengthen their online fan communities and expand their social media presence.
Puma’s Mayze Sneaker Sweeps Instagram
Known for its boundary-pushing streetwear collaborations, the athletic apparel giant thrilled UK influencers with the April drop of its Mayze women’s sneaker. Propelled by a launch campaign starring singer Dua Lipa (@dualipa on Instagram), the platform shoe saw impactful promotion from fashion enthusiasts such as Billykiss Azeez (@billykiss) and Poppy Mead (@poppymead), who flaunted their kicks in outfit posts tagged #PumaMayze. Content about the sneaker was often affiliated with Puma’s ongoing #SheMovesUs initiative, which champions women’s athleticism and empowerment.
Apart from Mayze, Puma engaged other female creators with various #SheMovesUs activations throughout 2021, including partnering with fitness blogger Simone Visso’ Lela (@lelasiimone) on a “Body Confidence” virtual training session. Altogether, #PumaMayze garnered $393.6k EMV from January to July, while #SheMovesUs powered $963.0k EMV. Bolstered by its passionate female fanbase, the brand netted $33.9m EMV during the time frame monitored, a 38% year-over-year improvement.
Footballers and Fashion Bloggers Fuel Gains for New Balance
New Balance made serious strides this year, with its $21.2m EMV from January to July representing a 56% year-over-year growth, mirroring a 65% YoY expansion of the brand’s influencer network. New Balance’s success stemmed largely from its popularity among two distinct communities of content creators: professional football players and fashion influencers. As teams returned to stadiums this spring, New Balance scored consistent shout-outs from partnered athletes like Liverpool FC’s Harvey Elliot (@harveyelliot07 on Instagram), who generated $1.1m EMV across 22 mentions of the brand as its No. 1 earner. In all, mentions of #NBFootball accrued $750.0k EMV.
Meanwhile, New Balance also enjoyed mounting enthusiasm among an entirely different cohort: everyday style bloggers. Fashion it-girls such as Chloe Hayward (@chloehayward) eagerly incorporated the brand’s sneakers and sweats into casual outfit posts, often including general-use hashtag #ootd (“outfit of the day”). Notably, the vast majority of this content was not sponsored, a testament to influencers’ widespread, organic affinity for New Balance. From January to July, 76 influencers mentioned New Balance in conjunction with #ootd, collectively driving $526.6k EMV.
Alo Yoga’s Partner Program Picks Up Speed
The US-based yoga outfitter continued to raise its profile in the UK: from January to July, Alo Yoga posted $10.2m EMV from 210 influencers, enjoying respective 33% and 20% year-over-year boosts in these two metrics. Increased conversation about the brand can be partly attributed to its partnerships with prominent fashion and wellness influencers, including model Megan Williams (@meganmayw on Instagram) and holistic health guru Georgia Gibbs (@georgiagibbs_). Throughout 2021, this squad of devoted supporters hyped new collections and reliably included Alo Yoga pieces in everyday style and fitness content, helping #AloPartner garner $772.0k EMV as one of the brand’s top five highest-earning hashtags during the time period monitored. Additionally, Alo Yoga greatly benefited from ongoing activity among yoga instructors affiliated with its Alo Moves training program: Liv Townsend (@livinleggings), for example, contributed a significant $616.5k EMV across 62 posts sharing yoga advice and inspiration, many of which highlighted her Alo Moves classes.
The home workout craze may be waning, but influencers’ enthusiasm for activewear is here to stay. To inspire sustained conversation on social media, athletic apparel brands (and all brands eager to boost their earned media performance) should keep the following considerations in mind:
Design Campaigns That Speak to Your Community
Hashtag campaigns are an effective tool for generating brand awareness and uniting members of your influencer community around a shared story. However, some paid initiatives can appear overly advertorial. To inspire impactful, authentic conversation around a brand-affiliated hashtag, follow Puma’s lead by choosing a campaign theme that aligns with topics your fans are already interested in, and by tapping participants who care deeply about the initiative’s message.
Embrace the Diversity of Your Fanbase
The online fitness community is home to countless unique influencer cohorts—chances are, your brand’s supporters are anything but a monolith. Rather than curtailing your brand’s potential by catering exclusively to one demographic of content creators, nurture enthusiasm from different groups of fans via tailored outreach, like New Balance.
Reserve Partnerships for Loyal Advocates
Broadly speaking, brands see the most success by building organic, genuine relationships with influencers, rather than relying on paid promotion. However, paid partnerships can be an effective way to reward consistent advocates for their support, and spark continued activity from your most enthusiastic fans. Take direction from Alo Yoga by thoughtfully, deliberately building a family of partners who are excited to participate in your brand’s story.
Catherine Kulke, Senior Content Marketing Associate for Tribe Dynamics, the leading influencer analytics platform for iconic brands.
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