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China, influencers and collaborations: The drivers of the sportswear market

By Regina Henkel


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Collaboration with South African queer designer Rich Mnisi. Credit: Adidas Pride Shot

Launchmetrics, the data analyst specialising in fashion, luxury and beauty brands, has looked at the sportswear phenomenon for the first time, which has been a driving force in fashion and lifestyle for years. The report, Sportswear Insights by Launchmetrics, examines key trends, influential voices and successful brand strategies in an attempt to shed light on the evolution and importance of the industry in today's dynamic consumer landscape. In total, Launchmetrics analysed over 70 sportswear brands to identify key trends in the industry, such as the most powerful voices, key influences in sportswear communities, the biggest game changers in the industry and the overall future direction of the sportswear landscape.

Sportswear is growing rapidly

The sportswear market has grown tremendously in recent years with a total market value in 2022 of 185.9 billion dollars. By 2032, it is expected to grow to 356 billion dollars, according to Launchmetrics. The reason for this growth is due to various factors. One of them is the increased health awareness of people following the pandemic and the resulting higher willingness to spend money on it. In addition, athleisure has established itself as a dominant fashion trend and has finally ensured that sportswear has been converted into everyday clothing. Ultimately, it is also qualities like functionality and comfort that have convinced people to want to wear sportswear everywhere.

This change has not only been driven by the products themselves, but also by iconic brands, influential designers, celebrities and prominent athletes. It can also be said that the handling of the topics of sustainability or diversity had an influence on the perception of sportswear.

Sportswear MIV increases by 52 percent in China

The most important unit for measuring success at Launchmetrics is the "Media Impact Value" (MIV). The company has developed its own algorithm to measure and benchmark the impact of all media placements and mentions in the fashion, lifestyle and beauty sectors. When measuring MIV for sportswear, Launchmetrics found notable differences across regions.

For example, in 2021, the Americas accounted for 2.5 billion dollars of MIV, making the region the largest contributor, followed by EMEA at 2.1 billion dollars. China's MIV was 1.2 billion dollars.

However, in 2022, total sportswear MIV increased globally, with growth of 7 percent in the Americas, by 4 percent in EMEA and a remarkable 52 percent in China. These figures show the evolving landscape of the sportswear industry across regions.

China: Influencers are the most important voice type

Which types of media have the most influence varies from region to region. Launchmetrics' analysis of "voice types" in the global sportswear market shows a contrast between China and the rest of the world. In China, influencers are the most important voice type for MIV. They play an important role in shaping consumer behaviour, brand preferences and general engagement with sportswear products in China. In the rest of the world, however, media is the dominant voice type contributing to MIV.

The future of sportswear

Collaborations have achieved particularly high MIV in the past, such as the collaboration between Adidas and Gucci, which generated an MIV of 96.5 million dollars in 2022. For the coming years, collaborations will continue to be an important factor to maximise return of investment (ROI) and gain broad brand awareness as well as develop new target groups.

At the same time, sportswear brands that drive inclusivity and empower women in male-dominated sports and diverse communities are gaining traction. By promoting diversity, these brands resonate with consumers who value inclusivity and build brand loyalty.

Celebrities will continue to be influential voices. At the same time, micro-influencers are gaining importance and experiencing a significant increase in influence.

Sustainability has become an important topic for sportswear brands, which brings a lot of attention to individual brands. So far, however, the whole topic only accounts for 1 percent of the total sportswear MIV.