Go The Distance
REMEMBER THE DAYS when workout clothes were workout clothes only? Everyone had a drawer-full: apparel that worked, literally and figuratively, only in the gym. Clothes that made one feel, frankly, a little out of place anywhere else.
Those days are gone. Now, people want to be able to zip from the gym to the store to the coffee shop without having to change—and this need is filled by more fashionable sports apparel, which has the dual advantage of wicking away sweat and still being presentable no matter how hard gym enthusiasts hit the speed bag. Yes, the sweat-soaked T-shirt look has been blessedly allowed to retire.
“It’s definitely athletic wear, but it’s also casual wear as well. It can be part of people’s lifestyle,” described Nicole Britt, the national account executive for Los Angeles-based ALO. Indeed, because the new breed of fashion-friendly workout clothes expands far beyond the gym, promotional opportunities with athletic clothing have never been better.
Style with staying power
“In the past 10 years, exercise apparel has become a staple in people’s wardrobes for a several reasons,” said Margaret Crow, director of marketing at S & S Activewear, based in Bolingbrook, Ill., which offers ALO, Badger and Augusta Sportswear. “First, more people are working out and joining health clubs than ever. Business travelers now rely on workout facilities in their hotels (and often need to grab something from the hotel gift shop for their workout). And probably most important, workout clothes are now made to go straight from errands to the gym.”
As a result, Crow stated for the promotional apparel industry, workout gear fits perfectly into promotional programs at gyms, health clubs, schools, camps and resorts.
Michael Topliss, vice president of Burnaby, British Columbia-based ID Wear, recognized the shift toward more lifestyle-driven products. “Over the years we have been investing more into athletic wear, because it is not only fashion-forward, but provides performance product features,” he explained. “We provide a look that goes beyond corporate basics.”
Yet, Britt is quick to point out the move toward practical athletic wear is not a trend. “At ALO, we don’t believe in trends. We feel style transcends time, so we look to see if there’s a longevity with a certain style, and we believe there is [in this case],” she noted, and pointed to well-known retail brands such as Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret and Bebe Sport as capitalizing on their athletic apparel/performance-wear lines. “People’s lifestyles [are] more athletic, more active, so they need the clothing choices that will allow them to live that way,” Britt affirmed.
The Hybrid Marketing Vehicles
This move out of the gym and into the real-world can also be a boon for branding initiatives. Since marketing vehicles are only useful as long as they’re visible, performance-wear items that can be worn as everyday wardrobe basics lead to more eyes on a message than ever before.
Topliss, for example, said ID Wear’s Athletica styles are good promotional products because they reflect current fashion styles and possess retail appeal. In other words, it’s the kind of clothing that will turn heads with its fashion
aesthetic, while also maintaining its comfort and practicality. Britt agreed, adding, “ALO is great on the treadmill, but then you’re going to want to wear it to the movies, to Starbucks, to your kid’s soccer game.”
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that regular gym-goers cut a modelesque figure among a population of mere mortals. “These are the people your customers want to see their logos on,” noted Crow. “They are high-energy people who have a lot to do and they are in different places, showing their logoed apparel to a [greater audience].”
The other big reason why end-users choose this style is the evolution of athletic clothing material. Topliss mentioned ID Wear’s range of long-sleeve technical tops made from innovative stretch, moisture-wicking waffle fabric and body mapping coverstitching; their track jackets are retro styled and feature fleeced backs for cooler temperatures. Also, eco-friendly innovation is increasingly popular. “People are more into choosing [products] that are environmentally friendly ... It will be something that they will want to wear over and over again,” claimed Britt. Lastly, no matter how cool a fashionable performance outfit looks and feels, there is one essential extra for all-day wear that is non-negotiable. “Customers want their workout/hang-out apparel to be breathable. That adds to the comfort factor and also ensures that the product is odor-free,” concluded Crow.