With the rise of social media, so too has there been a rise in Insta-famous activewear brands. And visa versa. Brands today rely on a robust online presence to generate an audience and sales.
While many social platforms exist, Instagram is critical to engaging with the masses, especially younger age groups. It is an excellent way to showcase your brand identity, build brand awareness, and build a community.
From Nike’s ability to create a solid emotional connection with its fanbase to Lululemon standing up for its values, and Gymshark utilizing influencer marketing, there are many effective ways to generate a robust social presence on Instagram.
Let’s explore each of these activewear brands in further detail and how they’ve managed to stand out from their competitors.
A Brief History of Instagram
Instagram’s history is considered by many to be a classic Silicon Valley fairytale. In 2009, Kevin Systrom, a 27-year-old Stanford University graduate, worked at Nextstop, a travel recommendations startup. Systrom had previously worked at Google and interned at Odeo, later evolving into modern-day Twitter.
Despite Systrom having no formal training in computer science, he taught himself to code on the nights and the weekends. Eventually, he built a prototype of a web app called Burbn, inspired by his taste for fine whiskeys and bourbons. The Burbn app allowed users to check in, communicate their plans, and share photos. Although location-based check-in apps were top-rated at the time, the photo-sharing feature of Burbn was unique.
Systrom landed funding with a venture capitalist and partnered with 25-year-old Mike Krieger. Krieger and Systrom met during their undergrad at Stanford, and Krieger had previously worked as an engineer and UX designer at the social media platform Meebo. Ultimately, the pair decided to strip Burbn down to its photo, commenting, and “liking” functions. They renamed their app Instagram at that time, combining the words instant and telegram.
After the first week of operation, Instagram had over 100K downloads—by December 1M. And they started to gain attention from some of the world’s most elite tech entrepreneurs, including Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. In 2012, Instagram, along with its team, was purchased by Facebook for 1B in cash and stocks.
Today, Instagram is a true success story, one of the essential marketing tools for building brand awareness. Year after year, Instagram creates a more robust platform. Let’s explore notable features for activewear brands to capitalize upon and increase visibility, reach, and engagement to maximize brand awareness and make the most of this popular social platform.
Notable Features for Activewear Brands to Capitalize Upon
To capitalize on Instagram, you first need to understand your brand objective for using the platform. Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve? If you’re like most major brands, such as Outdoor Voices, Adidas, and Nike, the most common goals include building brand awareness, creating a supportive and engaging fanbase, showcasing your brand values, culture, and purpose, and selling products and services. Each of these comes back to creating value-based content and developing your social following.
The first step is to optimize your brand’s social profile, starting with your bio. You only get 150 characters, one link, and a few basic action buttons to win over potential customers. In short, make sure your profile makes a good impression. This is critical to moving potential customers through the marketing funnel.
Second, the best activewear brands switch to an Instagram business profile. This is because business accounts offer additional features to expand your profile, track performance, and more.
Your profile must include:
- What your company does,
- Why the consumer should care, and
- How consumers can contact you.
Finally, feel confident in your performance online and ensure your brand focuses on your specific personality, tone, and vision. This will ultimately attract big fans and make your fitness brand’s marketing campaigns more successful.
How to Increase Visibility, Reach, & Engagement
As mentioned in the previous section, focusing on your brand’s specific style is essential. To increase visibility, reach, and engagement, you must create authentic and relevant content. Be consistent and engaging with your fans and develop a product line for each season that parallel’s their desired styles and fashion.
It is an excellent idea to create a competitor analysis. This gives you an idea of what other brands in your industry are doing to win market share. An example is a new activewear brand, such as Outdoor Voices, might consider analyzing the popular activewear brands Nike, Sweaty Betty, Alo Yoga, Free People, Collective Girlfriend, and Adidas. This detailed analysis will help to establish short and long-term goal strategies.
Remember to compete with the current market and be mindful of areas where you can do better. Place targeted ads amongst your target audience, analyze, and adjust. It will take time to develop a stellar social strategy. Still, time and money is well spent as social media is arguably the most influential player in modern-day marketing. Engage with your fans, respond to praise and criticism with grace and professionalism, share value-based content, and consider expanding your audience by creating strong partnerships.
Competition is Fierce for the Best Activewear Brands
In the everyday wear and activewear brand industry, competition is fierce. The modern dress code has led to a dramatic rise in athletic wear from sports bras to bike shorts, high-rise tights, and sweat sets; loungewear is the style of the decade as it’s functional, versatile, and stylish. Other best-sellers include leggings, hoodies, and the iconic crop top.
Modern consumers want to feel comfortable and confident while completing a range of everyday activities, whether a workout, running errands, or attending class. And for new brands, such as Outdoor Voices, to compete with the big guys, such as Adidas, and Free People, they must offer a wide range of lightweight fitness wear, loungewear, and trendy pieces and accessories. They must also develop a stellar social strategy to show it off, generate a robust presence, and gain market attention.
Develop a Robust Brand Identity
To develop a robust brand identity, you must first understand what this term encompasses. Brand identity includes each of the visible elements that make up a brand—from the logo to the typography, the color, and the design—and distinguishes it in the minds of consumers.
The tangible components linger in a consumer’s mind and bring them back to your brand each time they see a related design element. The brand identity should be distinctive, resonate with consumers, and remain consistent with your messaging and company values. The best activewear brands also leverage their brand identity to increase performance on social media and build brand awareness.
Build Brand Awareness
An excellent example of an activewear brand that built its market share primarily on Instagram is Outdoor Voices. Unlike popular activewear brands, Nike and Adidas, which had decades to build their reputation and consumer trust, Outdoor Voices entered the crowded sportswear market with something to prove.
Their distinct activewear line had to stand out with inclusive sizing, sweat-wicking fabric, and stylish, functional fitness accessories made for the gym, office, and studio. Their emphasis on extended sizing and bright colors made them visually and emotionally attractive to consumers. Not to mention, they followed modern fashion trends with a matching set of leggings and sports bras.
In addition to their visual appeal, Outdoor Voices is consistent and engaging on social media. They appeal to consumers’ desired aesthetics with a diverse range of content, from short videos to reels and traditional studio shots. Their color palette is bold and beautiful, functional and stylish. Additionally, they have built strong relationships with influencers who represent their target audience. This was an essential factor in building brand awareness quickly.
Stand-out from Your Competitors
The question remains, how did Outdoor Voices manage to stand out from their more powerful competitors, Nike and Adidas? For starters, they found a gap in the activewear space. As touched on briefly, the focus on casual and comfortable clothing has given rise to many different trends—notably athleisure. Athleisure is essentially a hybrid of business casual and exercise clothing. It combines the salient parts of these styles and primarily focuses on comfort, durability, and versatility.
Athleisure also taps into the rising cultural trend of healthy living. While this concept isn’t new, the market for products and services branded as such has increased tenfold in the past 50 years. Not only do individuals want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but they also want to be seen as healthy and active by their peers. How better to accomplish this than through your clothing?
By designing a product that bridges the gap between activewear and day-to-day fashion, Outdoor Voices has opened a burgeoning new market and solidified its place in it. Their tactic of marketing themselves as technical apparel and building a cult following that preaches their mission statement of #doingthings has made them stand out from their competitors.
Insta-famous Activewear Brands
In this next section, we’re examining Insta-famous activewear brands and how they’ve managed to generate a robust presence and cult fanbase on social media. These are excellent examples of successful marketing campaigns and strategies for any up-and-coming brand to consider implementing.
Nike is well-known for its lightweight workout clothes, moisture-wicking sports bras, and relaxed fit styles. Many mega sports stars and celebrities wear their fashion line, and consumers are big fans of the activewear brand’s clothing, considering them fashion icons. However, perhaps the best thing about Nike isn’t their gym clothes, but their effective marketing strategy and ability to connect with consumers on a deep emotional level. They accomplish this by communicating through stories.
The Importance of Storytelling
Since the dawn of man, we’ve been telling stories, and stories are arguably the most memorable form of communication. Stories create strong associations, and if you tell the right story, your impact on the consumer can be lifelong.
Consider this—rather than a television or social media commercial on clothing styles, fitness hoodies, and the brand’s fashion, Nike tells a story about the individual in those clothing pieces. By developing a story about each big fan or target persona, the brand offers consumers an actual identity—someone they are already like or aspire to be. It is motivational and long-lasting. We consider this, creating an emotional connection.
Creating an Emotional Connection
An example of Nike creating an emotional connection with their fanbase on Instagram is their recent activewear campaign with Noor, an investigative journalist and the host of Podcast Noor. Their #bornready campaign showcases Noor for International Women’s Day.
“Who’s never afraid to ask any and all questions? Her curiosity and thirst for knowledge is key to her evolution and empowerment. By staying curious, Noor has built her career around storytelling—unafraid to ask the hard questions and never settling for the obvious answer.”
This is an excellent example of creating an emotional connection with fans on Instagram as Noor is a person of influence, especially for young women. In addition to ads on social media, Noor and rapper and Grammy Nominee Chika sat down with WNBA star A’ja Wilson, advocate Gia Parr, and professional football player Deyna Castellanos for Nike’s FM Broadcast.
Nike’s brand goes beyond traditional marketing methods. They dedicate their team to developing better products and expanding their services. This comes together to classify them as one of the best activewear brands of the 21st century.
Lululemon is iconic for its super soft sports bras, bike shorts, and leggings. Not to mention, their new line includes an exercise dress, sweat-wicking bike short, and cold-weather fabric. Their range of lightweight fitness attire, swimwear, and yoga wear is diverse, high-quality, and in high demand. That said, Lululemon’s influence and social presence go beyond their activewear products. Lululemon is famous for its social campaigns and strong values.
Stand Up for Your Values
Lululemon shares its core values of “personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, honesty, courage, connection, fun, and inclusion are lived by our people every day and are at the heart of our unique company culture.” Founded by Chip Wilson in Vancouver, Canada, in 1998, Lululemon was a place for people to connect, inspire each other, and “discuss the physical aspects of healthy living, mindfulness, and living a life of possibility.”
The brand’s success can be attributed to its focus on human beings, health, and wellness. It goes beyond a consumer brand by showcasing its values and generating a feel-good movement of individuals seeking to feel good in their clothes and connected to a like-minded community.
Build a Community
Based on Lulu’s 3.9M fanbase on Instagram (03/2022), it is clear that they have a robust community online. Their followers are engaged, contribute to discussions, and show support—essential qualities in an online community. Lulu’s CEO has often said that its biggest asset is its direct and authentic relationship with its customers. It breaks down the fourth wall and develops real, meaningful connections. They also host in-store and virtual free yoga, exercise, and meditation events.
Gymshark is one of the most interesting influential activewear brands we’ve come across. This is primarily due to its extremely humble beginnings. Born in the bedroom of teenager and pizza delivery driver Ben Francis, Gymshark launched in 2012 and has grown to become a global business valued at over 1 billion.
Utilize Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing that involves endorsements and product placement from influencers and organizations with a purported expert level of knowledge or social influence in their field.
Gymshark’s innovative use of this method is considered the critical factor that stimulated the company’s growth. When Francis launched the company, he recruited a small number of social media stars and laid the foundations for what is now known as the Gymshark ‘athlete’ community.
Francis’ efforts to leverage fitness influencers by sending them free Gymshark sportswear to wear and promote the brand worked like a charm. It attracted their target audience and spread like wildfire across social media. Today, many of these influencers are now highly recognized ‘Gymshark Ambassadors.’ By leveraging different social media platforms, the company has connected with new social media influencers and dramatically increased its reach.
With the rise of social media, so too has there been a rise in Insta-famous activewear brands. And visa versa. Brands today rely on a robust online presence to generate an audience and sales. Instagram is essential to engage with the masses and an excellent way to showcase your brand identity, build brand awareness, and build a community. Learn from success stories, remember competition is fierce, and make things happen for you and your brand on Instagram.