New trends and innovations in sportswear

by Sonja Angerer | 24/01/2024
New trends and innovations in sportswear

Sonja Angerer shares the latest trends and innovations taking place in the Sportswear sector and how major sportswear brands are adapting to this. How can printers benefit from this opportunity?

The sportswear industry is booming. In Germany alone, according to Statista revenues from sportswear for women, men and children are expected to rise to almost 6.5 billion euros by 2028. Compared to 2018, this will be increase of more than 2.3 billion euros. New market trends and strategies are making a significant contribution to this boom.

Sports Marketing

For many decades, sportswear was defined as merely clothing for active people. Even major sports events such as men's football championships held little significance for the wider community.  Now, this has changed on a global scale, with the marketing of major sporting events such as the Football World Cup or the Olympics for instance.

Today, football clubs and other high-profile sports teams are billion-dollar businesses. When Adidas annually presents the new jersey of FC Bayern Munich, it is a mayor media event. The jerseys are sold worldwide at specialist retailers, in fashion stores and online.  According to media reports, each year Herzogenaurach-based company Adidas send 60 million euros to Munich.

Today, the renowned professional athletes have highly remunerated endorsement deals with the largest sporting goods manufacturers. This paves the way for sportswear produced in large quantities, with the athlete´s sporting the successes as a big part of the marketing storytelling. Until the 1990s, Trigema, a local sportswear manufacturer from Germany, was the largest 1st and 2nd men's football Bundesliga series jersey sponsor, sponsoring several teams at a time.

Caption: When sportswear manufacturers present new jerseys for well-known teams, it is a major media event. In picture:  FC Bayern Munich 23/24 3rd jersey from Adidas. Credit: Adidas

Sportswear is fashion

Today, news focused on sports targe a very large and demographic. As a result, the demand for sportswear continues to grow. Tricots are no longer worn only for practice but are worn every day and by all age groups. Sportswear has become deeply ingrained in younger people across the world.  As early as 1986, Hip Hop pioneers Run-DMC dedicated the famous track "My Adidas" to their sneakers.

Today, big brands such as Adidas, Nike and Puma offer various sportswear collections. The Adidas Performance line is the only one in their portfolio dedicated to clothing, shoes, and accessories for athletes, focused on popular activities such as fitness, running or swimming. In addition, sportswear brands run an increasing number of smaller, often limited collections, which are intended to reach diverse audiences, usually more fashion-loving than sports-enthusiasts:

  • "Drops" for major fashion retailers such as Zalando

  • Collections for local holidays such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico

  • Collaborations with influencers

  • Collaborations with designers or fashion labels

  • Special editions for corporate fans and insiders

These “capsule collections” are often used to portray a certain image of the brand and its fans.

While many of these promotions are one-off collections in small quantities, there are also long-term designer partnerships such as "Adidas by Stella McCartney". The British fashion designer has been working with them since 2004. She designs a wide range of sportswear with a focus on sustainability.

The large number of product lines means that new processes must be found and for printing and finishing to cement distinction between the collections. For example, Adidas uses both screen printing and digital printing in transfer and direct printing processes. These are produced in-house as well as supplied by officially listed partner companies.
Puma is also actively using finishing techniques and new materials. It's about showcasing the brand, as well as looking for techniques that improve the wearer's athletic performance.

CAPTION: Sportswear marketing is all about storytelling. Pictured: Collaboration between New Balance and Danish label Ganni in August 2023. 

Personalisation as a marketing tool

The world's 3 leading sporting goods manufacturers, Nike, Adidas and Puma, have been offering options for personalising individual products for years. Various methods are used for this. For example, many products get pseudo-personalised already in the factory with popular shirt numbers and/or names pre-printed on team shirts.

Adidas also finishes personalised products ordered online at the EFC Ecom Fulfilment Centre in Rieste. Puma is working with local partners to achieve this. In many cases, the local sports retailers or fan shops of the clubs also offer some kind of on-the-spot personalisation. In most cases, this meany flock film applied on site with a heat press.

"The satisfaction and personal wishes of our target customers have top priority. Young consumers in particular want to express their personality through individual and creative styles. We can meet this demand with our wide range of customisable products," said an Adidas spokesperson.

Caption: Nike offers a regular "Día de Muertos" collection for the Mexican holiday "Day of the Dead". It was launched in October 2023 exclusively for Nike Members. Credit: Nike

Local, fair and climate-friendly

Many, especially younger sportswear fans, want sportswear to be manufactured in an environmentally friendly and fair way. Therefore, Puma has summarised its sustainability strategy under the motto "10for25" and plans to have individual products manufactured entirely in Germany.  However, the demand for local printing and finishing facilities currently seems to be at a low level.

Nike launched a "Re-Create" program in 2022. For this, vintage and deadstock pieces are collected locally and reworked into new designer items on site in Los Angeles. Adidas has pledged to make 90% of its products sustainable by 2025. For the company, this means increasing the use of ecologically preferred materials and aiming for climate neutrality by 2050.

The sustainability programs that sportswear and fashion manufacturers are pursuing today can also be seen as a marketing trend. After all, no major brand today can sell to a global audience without a program in place to minimise its impact on the environment, climate, and local communities.

This is not only due to end consumer demands, but also to NGOs and legislators taking action to protect the planet. In the EU, transport and logistics account for about 20% of emissions. So, it is to be expected that the production of fashion and sportswear items will move closer to the markets, as this is an easy way to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a product.

Marketing trends create new markets

Looking towards the future, the demand for sportswear is expected to continue to rise. At the same time, more smaller manufacturers are entering local markets. Global brands are trying to counter this by offering many different product lines and enabling easy personalisation of standard goods. 

For printers with experience in the textile markets, this may open exciting business opportunities with leading brands, but also in cooperation with young labels. After all, hardly any other segment in the fashion industry depends as much on innovative printing and finishing options as the sportswear market. At the same time, digital processes offer unique opportunities to produce even small collections at reasonable costs.

Discover the latest innovations in sportswear at Sportswear Pro 2024, taking place from 19th – 22nd March 2024. Sportswear Pro will showcase the very latest technologies and solutions for on-demand and customised sportswear production. From sample design and automated digital workflows, to innovative materials and integrated wearable technologies, the exhibition and visionary trend forum will present sustainable, faster and leaner production solutions to sports and activewear brands and manufacturers. Register here and use promo code SWPJ404 and save 30 euros.

by Sonja Angerer Back to News


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