Personal Finance

How Women Took Center Stage in the Rise of Sportswear

In this video from Industry Focus: Consumer Goods , Motley Fool analysts Vincent Shen and Sarah Priestley look at how different companies have responded to the impressive growth of the sportswear industry. And as women play a greater role in this movement, major industry players have tweaked their marketing to appeal directly to this segment.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Sarah Priestley: If you look at activewear sales, over 2015, last complete data set, they grew 16%, depending on the definition, but the segment grew. If you look last year, apparel sales in the U.S. grew 2% year over year. But if you actually took out activewear, the impact that that would have had on the measurement, it would have declined by 2%. So, that shows you just how much this is juicing the industry. And if you look at women's contribution to that, that sports apparel is estimated to grow about 5.7% over the next three years, outpacing the 4.3% expected for the rest of the market. So, women are having a considerable impact on the market.

Vincent Shen: Absolutely. Where you will see this bear out has been in the success of certain companies. Think about Lululemon and how it has risen to prominence over the past several years, growing in step with this broader market trend. Then, of course, you have Gap . They launched the Athleta chain to serve as a competitor. Urban Outfitters had Without Walls, which they have pretty much shuttered, but again, trying to get their foot in the door. American Eagle , Victoria's Secret. And, of course, that doesn't even include who you typically think of in terms of sports apparel, essentially the industry leaders, being, of course, Nike (NYSE: NKE) , Adidas, Under Armour (NYSE: UA) (NYSE: UAA) . Do you feel like there was a watershed moment, or any notable moments in general, or companies that really helped to drive and curate the growth in this segment, and as women poured into sports?

Priestley: Yeah. I really do. I feel as though it's a chicken-and-egg scenario. I think that women's participation in sports was up even before a lot of the marketing campaigns targeted women. If you look in 2013, Nike saw their women's segment grow 12%, which outpaced that overall top line growth of 9%. Obviously, interest was there. But what I love is this anecdote about McKenna Peterson, who was 12 years old at the time in 2014. She wrote a letter to Dick's Sporting Goods .

She'd received the company's basketball catalog, she was really into basketball. I would urge people to go and look at this letter, because it's a fantastic example of truth and honesty that only children can really master. She said, "There are no girls in the catalog. Oh wait, sorry, there is a girl in the catalog on page 6, sitting in the stands." So, her outrage fueled this big social media response and market researchers really tried to hone in on this aspect, they sensed that there was something here. The New York Yankees actually sell more women's apparel than men's apparel. So, people started to notice these things. And marketers came back, and they said that the current ads don't appeal to women because they're not real enough. They showed extremely talented, muscle-clad athletes, and women couldn't really identify with that message, and they couldn't really find a space for themselves within the industry.

So, I would say, to me, two marketing campaigns that really signaled a turning point in the industry, if you look mid-2014, Under Armour came out with the I Will What I Want campaign. Kevin Plank called it the most expansive global women's marketing campaign to date, and it really was. The campaign featured female athletes talking about moments that they had received negativity in their career. And that really resonated with a lot of women. You had, like, Misty Copeland talking about a rejection letter that she had received, things like that. 2015, Nike responded, launching its Better for It campaign, which is the largest women's campaign ever to date. It featured inner dialogue of women. So, you had a women stuck behind a row of models, in a spinning class, a runner through a half-marathon, a yogi unsure of what to do, feeling awkward. And this had tremendous success. Their YouTube inner thoughts compilation video actually received 8.5 million views on their channel on YouTube. So, it was a really fantastic response to all of those.

Sarah Priestley owns shares of Under Armour (C Shares). Vincent Shen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Lululemon Athletica, Nike, Under Armour (A Shares), and Under Armour (C Shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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