At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, consumers and businesses couldn’t have predicted the long-lasting impact it would have on nearly every global industry.

From the supercharged growth of ecommerce to the supply chain crisis that’s making it difficult for materials and products to be shipped, the effects have ranged from negative to positive for different industries.

For the sporting goods and athleisure sector, the past two years have brought unprecedented sales growth. In this article, we’ll dive into the most recent ecommerce stats and data for this industry, impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues, and trends and strategies that sports brands should know about to beat the competition in 2022.

COVID-19 Impacts on the Sporting Goods & Athleisure Industry

Ever since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, consumers have been spending more time at home due to remote work policies and health concerns. That means we’ve been dressing a lot more comfortably. Indeed, sportswear has dominated all other apparel categories since the onset of the pandemic.

Over the first year of the pandemic, athleisure orders jumped 84%.

Athleisure is a casual apparel category that blends athletic clothes with leisurewear. In other words, it’s a fashion trend that enables people to wear more comfortable clothes in public than they may have before. The clothes are intended to be multipurpose so that they can be worn for both form and function – for example, appropriate for work while still comfortable enough to work from home in.

The global activewear market is expected to grow 3.7% in 2021 to reach $380.14 billion. In 2020, the market was worth $353.5 billion.

It wasn’t all gold and dollar signs for sports apparel and athleisure brands at the beginning of the pandemic. US sportswear and swimwear revenue declined 27.1% in 2020 in light of the pandemic – and in 2021, the US sports and swimwear market was still 7.6% below pre-pandemic levels.

This year, the US sportswear and swimwear market is expected to grow 15% to surpass pre-pandemic numbers and reach a record $77.3 billion.

And consumers aren’t just wearing sporting apparel more than before. 30% of consumers say that they’re more physically active than they were before the pandemic. Compared to before the pandemic, 84% of consumers are participating more in outdoor individual sports, 72% more in home exercise, and 36% more in virtual races like 5Ks.

The value of the US sports apparel market grew 7.9% in 2021 over 2020 to reach $113.4 billion.

After dipping 24.7% month-over-month in April 2020 as the pandemic started to take shape and consumer spending went down, US sporting goods sales climbed 68.5% in May 2020 and 34.5% in June 2020 to eventually top out at a record $6.8 billion in sales at the end of the first pandemic year.

US home fitness equipment sales surged 40.5% in 2020 to reach $5.59 billion after remaining steady at an average of $3.82 billion in sales over the course of the prior six years. With the excessive growth in home fitness, sporting goods brands have had a huge opportunity to convert new customers. At the onset of the pandemic, ROI Revolution’s digital marketing experts helped exercise equipment brand Treadmill Doctor profit from unprecedented growth through product feed optimization that led to a 132% increase in revenue. Learn more in the case study here.

2022 Ecommerce Predictions for the Sporting Goods & Athleisure Industry

The global activewear market grew 3.7% last year to reach $380.14 billion. This year, it’s expected to be worth $439.2 billion. More specifically, the global sports apparel market is projected to grow 2% in 2022 to reach $195.8 billion.

Sportswear and athleisure growth is very US-centric. The US sportswear and swimwear market will continue to see considerable growth over the next several years, projected to approach $96 billion by 2025.

Women’s apparel is the biggest sales driver for US sportswear and swimwear, projected to make up 54% of total revenue this year compared to 29% for men’s and 17% for children’s.

For brick-and-mortar brands, an odd dynamic appeared during the pandemic as the popularity of outdoor sports started to soar but consumers were wary about going into stores to buy sporting goods.

Everyone was playing and demand was there, but it was hard for brands to get retail shelf space because stores were limiting orders due to in-store shopping restrictions. This created more competition for paid search advertising as retailers focused more on driving sales digitally. This forced independent brands to look for opportunities to win elsewhere, like influencer marketing – which around 33% of sporting goods brands are focusing on in 2022 according to ROI Revolution survey data. Influencer marketing will be a major trend for sporting goods and athleisure brands in 2022.

Trends & Strategies for Sporting Goods & Athleisure Brands

Influencer marketing is a key way for athleisure brands to reach potential customers. Nike’s top two placements during Q1 2020 were Instagram posts from soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo that generated over $4 million in Media Impact Value.

60% of 16-24 year-olds credit a purchase they’ve made in the past six months to an influencer.

Nike is the top clothing brand among teenagers, a group that is mostly Gen Zers with quickly rising purchasing power. 27% of teenagers say they prefer to buy and wear Nike clothes, with Adidas and lululemon each clocking in at 4%.

It shouldn’t be hard for Nike to retain its place at the top. Over the time period ranging September 2019 to September 2020, Nike was the top global athleticwear brand at $37.4 billion in sales, followed by Adidas at $23.2 billion, PUMA at 5.7 billion, and Under Armor at $4.5 billion.

Nike’s North American revenue did decline 8.9% in 2020 in light of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2021, revenue grew to surpass pre-pandemic levels, jumping 18.6% year-over-year to reach a record $17.2 billion.

ROI Revolution recently conducted a survey of nearly 200 digital marketing professionals to uncover what trends and initiatives brands are focusing on the most in 2022. We found that for the sporting goods industry, the top trends for 2022 are direct to consumer and video.

After hitting just $76.68 billion in 2019, US D2C ecommerce sales are projected to reach $151.2 billion this year before climbing to $174.98 billion in 2023. And video has been growing significantly as social media like TikTok and Instagram Stories continue to rise in popularity among both consumers and brands.

For the broad apparel and accessories industry, social commerce and emerging social media platforms are the top trends for 2022. To uncover more data like this, stay tuned for our 2022 State of Digital Marketing Report, where we’ll be sharing exclusive insights from our data based on specific industries, annual company revenue, and more.

Next Steps for Your Brand in 2022

Insights like these are great, but they only go so far until you actually apply them to your brand – which can be a daunting task. The proven digital experts at ROI Revolution can help. As an extension of your team, everything we do revolves around your brand’s success. With over 20 years of online advertising experience and as an elite agency partner with Google, Amazon, Meta, and more, our experts are uniquely positioned to drive full-funnel brand growth and customer acquisition for big and growing brands. Reach out to us today to learn more.