David Mastovich

Let’s talk about tracksuits and all that good stuff that we thought we left back in the 1980s.

We won’t be dissecting the style. Instead, focus on how athleisure has evolved over the years and how the market still has an interest in this style of clothing. And most important, how that is all tied to marketing.

Athleisure is defined as a casual, comfortable clothing designed to be suitable for exercise and everyday wear.

Here’s a little fun fact to get us started. Athleisure made its debut in the 1930s when William and Abe Feinbloom invented the hoodie for laborers in Rochester, New York, to help combat the cold temperatures.

From this hoodie, the Champion brand was born.

As time progressed, each decade left its mark on athleisure. From spandex and Adidas superstar shoes in the 1980s to Under Armour and yoga pants in the 1990s, and let’s not forget velour tracksuits in the early 2000s, athleisure continues to evolve over time.

In fact, by 2024, global athleisure sales are estimated to reach a whopping $232 billion.

Athleisure is about more than just wearing workout clothes and going to brunch. Instead, it provides a valuable lesson in using segmentation to tweak your offer/product/service to fit the needs and wants of your target demographic.

Let’s focus on how brands are tweaking their athleisure items to fit the growing wants and needs of consumers.

Brands are doing collaborations with well-known celebrities/influencers, basically anyone with clout to help build brand awareness and fuel the interests of their target markets.

For instance, KSwiss, a popular brand that picked up steam in the 1990s-2000s, seemingly fell off the athleisure radar until it did a collaboration with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk to release a line of shoes with motivational backstories.

Entrepreneurs and Gary Vee fans are now buying into the idea and are wearing these shoes to anything from a business meeting to happy hour.

Beyonce was even going to do a collaboration with Reebok until things went awry.

Athleisure is more than just collaborations and brand building.

The growth of athleisure as an industry can be a case study in Real, No BS Marketing.

First, the product has changed as technology has enabled the fabric to change.

New fibers enable greater odor reduction, sweat-wicking, stretchability to conform to the body’s shape, breathability to allow air in and out, and protection from dirt. It’s also more comfortable and durable. That’s part of the product P of the 4 P’s of the marketing mix.

Second, the segmentation includes creating different styles to reach different target groups based on income, age, gender and even the use of psychographics to help with the look and feel and the specific message by target market. The industry has also created multiple levels by price to make sure they leverage that price P of those 4 P’s of the marketing mix.

The messaging and presentation of athleisure has been great, including some of the branding ideas I’ve already discussed. That covers a third P, promotion.

The last P of the 4 P’s is placement or how the product is distributed. Here’s where athleisure also has been creative, leveraging both traditional brick and mortar stores and online buying opportunities.

It’s a fashion industry movement that reaffirms the idea that you don’t have to wear formal clothes every day to show that you mean business.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I wore a suit and tie to work. But, just because I’m not wearing formal clothes doesn’t mean that I don’t care or I don’t take my job seriously.

Our clothes shouldn’t have too much of an impact on our productivity. I say “Shouldn’t have too much of an impact,” because we still have to have a No BS, common sense approach to how we dress at work.

Yes, we want to express ourselves and show off our personal style. But we also need to realize that certain situations require different appearances.

You need to dress for success and that might mean being a little more formal when you have client meetings or when senior leaders might be in your work area for a day.

And we all have experienced that one person who defines business casual way different than the rest of us. But the reality is athleisure can be an option in more and more work situations.

David Mastovich is founder and CEO of MASSolutions, host of the “No BS Marketing” podcast and author of the book “Get Where You Want to Go Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.”

Recommended for you