Activewear Performance COVID

The Activewear Performance COVID Survival Guide

Launchmetrics Content Team

It doesn’t come as a surprise that while the majority of the fashion industry struggled during Covid, activewear and athleisure brands flourished. Leggings, sweatpants, and overall loungewear became the remote work uniform. According to Statista, the global sports apparel market saw $180 billion in revenue last year and is estimated to reach nearly $190 billion in revenue for 2020. While activewear brands race to gain market share in this fast-growing market, the pandemic posed new challenges for brands to not only survive the crisis but also find opportunities to differentiate themselves and leverage the rise in demand for activewear and loungewear. For our latest article, we’ve put together an activewear performance Covid survival guide, taking an in-depth look at activewear performance and how brands have been successful in driving their Media Impact Value™ (MIV®) over the course of the first quarter of 2020 (January 1, 2020 to April 30, 2020).  

Industry Performance 

According to Launchmetrics’ latest report, Marketing Reset: The Voices Impacting Brand Performance during Covid-19, although fashion, luxury and beauty industries were significantly disrupted, they still collectively generated $19.7B in total MIV®, which was an increase of 0.27% in comparison to the first quarter of 2019, showcasing how they were able to pivot their strategies to maintain their brand performance. As consumers look for trustworthy news sources and information, Media outlets dominated the industry, by contributing 56% of overall global MIV®. Not only did consumers looked to the media for information, during Q1 2020, consumers demanded content related to Covid-19, with 52.2% of online content and 15.6% of social content mentioning the term.


As one of the segment’s largest sponsors for major sporting events and top athletes, the virus outbreak spurred sports leagues and Olympics to suspend their games - meaning that brands, like Nike, needed to quickly find other channels to amplify their message and minimize the damage. 

Launchmetrics’ data found that Nike not only succeeded in maintaining its share of MIV®, but that they actually saw an increase of 22.23% in total MIV®, from $572M in Q1 2019 to nearly $699M in Q1 2020. Contributing to their success includes its strategic four-phase COVID-19 response strategy, including containment, recovery, normalization, and return to growth. Not only did the activewear brand pivot early on to digital services, wherever and whenever possible, but Nike also continued to connect with their customers around the overall theme of staying active while at home through building a variety of digital campaigns including Nike Living Room Cup, Nike Play Inside, NikeCraft, and Nike Made to Play.

Nike’s long term partnerships with top athletes such as the likes of LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo have all been incredibly favorable for the brand, not only by amplifying them but also increasing brand affinity. During Q1 2020, Portuguese soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo’s two Instagram posts, one related to Nike’s Living Room Cup and the other related to the launch of new CR7 football cleats were the top two placements for the brand, generating over $4.12M in MIV®.

As previously mentioned, Media was the strongest Voice for the industry during the global pandemic, and this can also be witnessed for Nike, as it saw an increase of 13% in comparison to 2019 Q1. Media outlets generating the most MIV® for the brand included Hypebeast, Daily Mail, and Sneaker News. 


While Adidas (impacted by Covid) saw a decrease in revenue of 19% during Q1 2020, it still continued to drive activewear performance with an uptick of nearly 22% in MIV® ($510M in total MIV®) in the same quarter. Similarly to Nike, the brand also rolled out digital campaigns on Instagram, and through their Adidas Training app, targeting stay at home fitness trends. Diving into Adidas’ top 10 placements for the quarter, the brand saw incredible results from working with celebrities, with nine of 10 top placements posted by celebrities. The other top placement, while coming from print media, Elle US, was actually the cover-story and interview with singer-songwriter, Beyonce, for their January issue. This cover story where Beyonce was seen wearing the pieces from the Adidas x IVY PARK collection, unsurprisingly, was the top placement for Adidas during the quarter, creating $2.58M in MIV®. 

Amplifying Adidas even further, Beyonce created another 11 placements through Adidas x IVY PARK E-comm takeover on the celebrity’s Instagram channel, generating $9.16M in MIV® or $833K per post on average. Investigating Adidas’ celebrity relations further, the brand’s lifetime endorsement with Argentine soccer player, Lionel Messi, was also incredibly beneficial for the brand as the two placements created by the star athlete, ranking second and third for the top placements of the quarter, driving $3.14M in MIV®. 


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adidas x IVY PARK E-comm takeover

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Although Adidas’ Owned Media channels saw a considerable decrease of 13% in comparison to 2019, it was still one of the top five Voices for the brand. By leveraging their Owned Media strategy, Adidas created over 120 placements during Q1 2020, which still contributed to a significant $8.1M in MIV®. However, as seen through the decrease in the Share of Voice of Adidas’ Owned Media channels, the brand has the opportunity to leverage this further by sharing and communicating their brand values.


As an activewear brand built on the importance of authenticity and community, Lululemon was able to increase its total MIV® during Q1 2020 in comparison to 2019, by 5.3% ($51.6M in Total MIV®). Contributing to this increase was the brand’s ability to convey its brand values and its ability to send consistent messages, in order to ensure that they stayed top of mind for consumers during this time. Unlike the two major players mentioned above, Lululemon’s top voice during COVID, was actually the brand’s Owned Media channel, generating nearly 4.6K in placements and $8.31M in total MIV®. 

Lululemon is built on the importance of community and differentiated itself over its’ brand messaging. As such, the activewear brand saw success in driving brand performance through its owned channels and influencers during COVID. Of the top 10 key placements for the brand, five were by influencers and three were by the brand itself, making it evident that the brand has the ability to amplify its Share of Voice through grassroots marketing. 

When investigating the influencer tier mix, we saw that Lululemon benefited incredibly from Mid-Tier Influencers (100K-500K). With around 130 Mid-Tier Influencers, this particular group generated nearly $4.5M in MIV®, which led to an increase of 21% (in comparison to 2019 Q1) for the Canadian activewear brand. The top 3 Mid-Tier Influencers for the brand during this quarter included bodybuilder Steph Chung, fashion and lifestyle influencer Linn Ahlborg, and personal trainer Miranda Cohen

Activewear Performance COVID Outlook

While the COVID impact on sportswear brands is faring better compared to other fashion categories, the segment offers lower margins and shows limited differentiation between key players. As such, as businesses begin to reopen, it will be critical for activewear brands to find ways to differentiate their product offerings by creating collections that are not only comfortable but also appropriate for social aspects of the new normal. By offering more product variability, activewear brands can then ensure that consumers’ current demand for comfort will continue as they return to the office and enjoy outdoor patio dining. 

Another key element for activewear brands to continue to consider is the focus on wellness and health. For many consumers, the pandemic served as a wakeup call to adapt to a healthier lifestyle that involves a regular workout or fitness schedule and places a greater focus on mental wellbeing. The wellness trend will continue after Covid and activewear brands who understand how to leverage their resources and capabilities to build out authentic campaigns that focus on wellness and health will continue to improve their brand performance and outshine their competitors. 

For more data and insights related to how the Fashion, Luxury, and Beauty industries are driving brand performance, download our latest report, Marketing Reset: The Voices Impacting Brand Performance during Covid-19:

Activewear Performance COVID

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