Analysis - Plus Size Athletic Wear Brands

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01
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Part
01

Analysis - Plus Size Athletic Wear Brand: Old Navy, Livi Active by Lane Bryant, and C9 Champion.

An exhaustive analysis of Old Navy, Lane Bryant, and C9 Champion’s plus-size athletic wear reveals that the three brands are primarily using their websites, social media profiles, TV commercials, and display ads to advertise their products. Their key marketing messages are focused on their use of moisture-wicking technologies and stretch fabrics that enhance comfort and support. Media placements that have been published during the past 12 months are mostly centered on their marketing campaigns, product launches, and growth strategies.

ANALYSIS OF PLUS SIZE ATHLETIC WEAR BRANDS

To complete this research, I have focused on reviewing the websites, social media profiles, and media placements of Old Navy, Lane Bryant, and C9 Champion. I also utilized online tools like AdEspresso and Moat to determine the marketing channels used by each brand. As requested, I’ve limited my analysis to each brand’s plus-size athletic clothing category and utilized only the sources written within the past year.

OLD NAVY

• Channel used to promote their plus-size athletic clothing:
Old Navy makes their plus-size collection available through their website. The brand also utilizes their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages to promote their plus-size activewear category. Upon further analysis, it appears that the brand usually advertises their plus-size activewear products through broader divisions like ‘Women’s Plus’ or ‘Old Navy Activewear’. They also utilize display ads to spread awareness to their Old Navy Active line but they have no banner ads specific to their plus-size activewear category.

Using AdEspresso’s Facebook ad gallery, I’ve found that Old Navy is also using Facebook ads to market their products. In addition, they also have an affiliate program which grants publishers 1-4% commission on every item sold. Regrettably, there’s not enough information available to confirm if the brand is using both Facebook ads and affiliate programs for their plus-size activewear line.

• Marketing message:
The brand is using the following messages to differentiate their Old Navy Active Women’s Plus line: (1) a Go-Dry moisture-wicking technology that will keep the user dry, (2) use of compression fabric that enables support and flatters any body type, and (3) support bras that offer ample amount of support for any type of workout.

• Media placements:
While there are plenty of articles written about the brand Old Navy within the past year, my research has found that the brand rarely talks about their plus-size activewear products separately. They are usually grouped with the brand’s activewear collection or plus-size division. The most relevant article I’ve found is a SheKnows article dated August 2017. As such, I’ve also included two related articles: one that focuses on the brand’s activewear line and one that is centered on their plus-size clothing.

Brands Who Make Plus-Size Workout Clothes” (August 2017): Last year, SheKnows has published a list of activewear brands that cater to women of all sizes. The said article features Old Navy and their line of activewear for plus-size women.

Gap’s CEO Pegs Growth Strategy on Active” (September 2017): In response to the increasing demand of activewear products, Gap Inc. predicts that their sales for Athleta, their activewear brand, will reach $1 billion in the following years. In addition to this, the company also plans to expand Old Navy’s activewear category.

Online retailers seize on long-ignored market: Women size 16 and up” (September 2017): In 2016, sales of plus-size apparel increased by 6% causing clothing brands to launch or expand their plus-size collections. Old Navy, along with other retailers like J.C. Penney and Walmart, has expanded their sizes to 30. Even with the growth of the plus-size category, sizes beyond 30 still fail to sell. According to Debbie Christel, assistant professor at Washington State University, “It’s really, really difficult to find fashionable clothing above 3X or 4X.”

LANE BRYANT

• Channel used to promote their plus-size athletic clothing:
Lane Bryant’s plus-size athletic collection is primarily advertised through their website. This collection can be accessed through their Livi Active division. Additionally, the brand can also be seen promoting their Livi Active line through their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube pages. In their Instagram page, Lane Bryant utilizes user-generated content to increase awareness of their Livi Active sculpting collection. In their YouTube page, on the other hand, the brand publishes a series of videos called ‘LIVI Moves’ which promotes physical activity and confidence.

Last year, the brand launched a series of videos which promotes body positivity. This was the latest installment of their #ThisBody campaign which they first launched in 2016. The accompanying commercial for the campaign sparked controversy due to the nudity of some models, prompting TV networks such as NBC and ABC to reject the said advertisement. In addition to this, the brand is also making use of display ads to drive traffic to their website.

• Marketing message:
The brand is using the following key messages to maximize their brand value: (1) use of sculpting fabric that gives enough support while maintaining comfort, (2) use of ultra-sleek waistbands, (3) body-mapping seams that accentuates the user’s natural curves, and (4) their anti-chafing and anti-wicking technology that will keep the user dry and comfortable.

• Media placements:
Lane Bryant’s Newest Video is All About Loving Yourself Exactly as You Are” (February 2017): A year after they launched their #ThisBody campaign, Lane Bryant introduced a series of new videos which encourages the viewers to be comfortable in their own skin. The videos feature women from different walks of life who talked about the things that inspire them in their everyday life.

Prabal Gurung’s Plus-Size Collection with Lane Bryant is Finally Here” (February 2017): Prabal Gurung, a Nepalese-American fashion designer, has partnered with Lane Bryant to launch a new collection of plus-size clothing for the empowered woman.

Ring in 2018 with Lane Bryant at the LIVI New Year Event” (January 2018): Earlier this year, Yahoo! published a Lane Bryant press release about the brand’s upcoming event ‘LIVI Active Sculpting Collection’. The event, which was held at Novi, Michigan was created to launch their newest line of yoga pants, bras, and leggings.

C9 CHAMPION

• Channel used to promote their plus-size athletic clothing:
In their website, Champion features their plus-size athletic products under the C9 Champion collection of their Men’s and Women’s division. In addition, their C9 Champion collection is also available through the Target website. The brand also takes advantage of their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages to promote awareness of their products.

In 2017, the brand partnered with retail giant Target to launch their campaign called ‘A New Kind of Strong’. According to Rick Gomez, Target’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, the campaign aims to recognize the fact that their customers, regardless of physical appearance and size, can have their own take at living active lifestyles. In addition to this, the brand also uses display ads to spread awareness about discounted items and drive traffic to their website.

• Marketing message:
The brand is using the following messages to maximize their competitive distinctiveness: (1) use of four-way stretch fabric, (2) their Duo Dry® moisture-wicking technology that promotes maximum comfort, and (3) flat seams that keep chafing to a minimum.

• Media placements:
Target's New Body Positive Campaign Stars Plus Size Ballerina Lizzy Howell” (May 2017): An Allure article has featured the brand’s ‘We Are a New Kind of Strong’ Campaign. They wrote about the featured plus-size ballerina Lizzy Howell and how she’s working to give a new definition to the term “ballerina body.”

Plus-Size Teen Ballerina Takes Featured Spot in New Ad Campaign” (May 2017): As part of the C9 Champion’s ‘We Are a New Kind of Strong’ campaign, Yahoo Style has written about ballerina Lizzy Howell and how she’s using her voice to defeat stereotypes.

Plus-Size Convention TheCurvyCon Hits New York Fashion Week” (August 2017): Last year, WWD wrote an article about the two-day event TheCurvyCon which featured brands like Dia&Co, Lane Bryant, and Target. The event also drew attention to the plus-size pieces of the C9 Champion activewear. To start this section of the conference, C9 Champion’s brand ambassador Massy Arias led a Q&A portion to address the questions of the attendees.

In summary, my research has revealed that Old Navy, Lane Bryant, and C9 Champion are utilizing their websites, social media pages, display ads, and TV commercials, to promote their plus-size athletic collections. Their marketing messages are centered on their use of moisture-wicking technologies and stretch fabrics. Their media coverage during the past year is focused on marketing campaigns, product launches, and growth strategies.
Part
02
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Part
02

Analysis - Plus Size Athletic Wear Brand: Nike and Fabletics

Overview

In 2017, both Nike and Fabletics launched lines of plus-sized athletic wear. These plus-sized lines are now featured prominently in their own categories on both the Nike and Fabletics web pages. For Nike, brand messaging centers around the concept of strength, and the company partners with social media influencers to promote their product as well as using traditional marketing means. Fabletics promotes their message and clothing lines by expressing company co-founder Kate Hudson's belief that "everyone — regardless of size, shape, age, or ability — deserves to look incredible," and also maintains promotional partnerships with celebrities and social media influencers. Each company was praised in the media for offering extended sizes; many lauded Nike's plus size line as one that was a long time coming, while Fabletics was praised for the quality of their clothing designs.

Nike

Nike launched their first ever plus sized line of clothing in early 2017, focusing their branding message on the concept of strength. Helen Boucher, the company's VP of women's training, asserted that "being strong is beautiful. Strong is the keyword for us — size doesn't matter." Boucher's emphasis on size being unimportant indicates that the company wants to focus on inclusivity while promoting plus-sized clothing. On Nike's official store website, this line of clothing is given its own section, which is accessed by hovering over the general "women's" category of clothing and navigating to the link that reads "plus size." Other than this link, Nike does not appear to heavily promote the plus size line on their own website — it does not feature on their home page at all, aside from this link. It almost appears more a specialty, subset of the women's general line, listed at the very end of the drop down menu that enumerates Nike's options for women.

When Nike's plus sized line was launched, several media outlets covered the reaction on social media from people who were ecstatic, to people shaming those who would be purchasing clothes from the line, as well as Nike itself for releasing it. Many on social media were reacting to posts that Nike made on social media advertising the brand, such as those on their @NikeWomen Instagram account featuring plus sized models wearing the line. Several who reacted positively to the line also used Nike's step forward as a platform to request that other athletic companies release similarly inclusive lines. This appears to indicate that at the time, Nike was one of the few companies fulfilling the need for plus sized athletic clothing. Leading women's publications like Cosmopolitan reacted positively to the line's launch, commending Nike for recognizing the need for clothing in this range and for partnering with plus sized models to advertise the clothing.

Additionally, around the time the line was launched, Nike partnered with social media influencers like Danielle Vanier, a plus-sized fashion, lifestyle, and beauty blogger, who is seen in posts to her Instagram account (such as those on February 28, 2017, and April 4, 2017) wearing a hooded sweatshirt and leggings from Nike's plus-sized line. She engages her followers in the captions of the posts, asking if they have tried any of the clothing and answering questions from her followers about the line in the comments section. Vanier mentions in the comments of one post that she was gifted the clothing she is seen wearing in the photos. Nike gifting Vanier clothes to show off to her 94.7k Instagram followers indicates the company's desire to reach out to an audience like the one Vanier engages with, presumably made up of young, plus sized women who are looking for active wear made for them.

Fabletics

In April 2017, Kate Hudson's Fabletics brand announced that it would be extending its sizes to 3X. As a company, Fabletics focuses on co-founder Hudson's belief that "everyone — regardless of size, shape, age, or ability — deserves to look incredible" and should be able to have access to an active lifestyle. The plus sized clothing line is heavily emphasized on the Fabletics website, with its own fully developed section of clothing that offers all the same styles listed under the "Women" category in the corresponding extended sizes. Fabletics' commitment to providing the same styles across a range of sizes illustrates the company's adherence to Hudson's vision; plus sized clothing does not appear to be lesser than the other lines on the website, nor does it appear to be an afterthought.

The crux of Fabletics' general appeal appears to be celebrity branding. Its co-founder, actress Kate Hudson, is very visible on the company's official website, and other celebrities, such as singer Demi Lovato, collaborate with the company to curate collections emphasizing their own personal style. Upon releasing their extended sizes, Fabletics was able to expand their appeal within the audience of women who admire or look up to these celebrities. The launch of Lovato's collection was lauded for providing athletic clothing in the same style for a variety of sizes, meaning that the same clothes Lovato wore in advertising for the line are available for women from an XXS to a 3X. Additionally, Fabletics was commended for the inclusion of models of many body types in their general branding after the announcement of the size extension. There was also praise for the brand making clothes specifically tailored to plus sized women, and not "scaled up, straight size wear."

Additionally, Fabletics' move to include extended sizes to their clothing line was commended by Jessamyn Stanley, a yogi, author, and body positivity advocate. Stanley advertised Lovato's collection in a story on her Instagram account in September 2017, calling the line "the first really on-trend plus size athletic wear" that she had worn. Upon seeing this post, it is likely that a decent portion of Stanley's 354k Instagram followers became aware of these clothing options due to her influence, and put Lovato's capsule collection on their radar. Additionally, Stanley praised Lovato's Fabletics collection to an even wider audience in an interview with InStyle conducted for January 2018, keeping the hype for the brand alive five months after she originally praised them on her Instagram.

Media

Nike used Instagram to promote their plus sized athletic clothing, both on their own page and through model pages, like these examples. They feature the clothing itself in most of their ads, but also feature plus-sized models in graphic tops with the hashtag #StyleHasNoSize. This is a clever way to get their message across visually, as well as give consumers a fun way to share their items on social media. They also made sure to feature models wearing sports bras in their ad campaign, as that is something usually avoided by companies advertising plus-sized clothing.

Like Nike, Fabletics chose social media as the platform to launch their plus-size campaign. Their main advertising was done through their announcement on their blog. The size expansion campaign was named Fit For You.

Conclusion

Athletic wear companies Nike and Fabletics each released plus sized clothing lines in 2017. The companies boasted similar missions, both amounting to the idea that there shouldn't be limits on who has access to high quality athletic wear, with Nike emphasizing the importance of strength. Each company was commended in the media for extending their size options; Nike was praised by many on social media for providing options to a demographic that sorely needed them. Fabletics received praise for providing clothing that was tailored for plus sized women specifically. Each company worked with social media influencers like Danielle Vanier and Jessamyn Stanley, who promoted and praised Nike and Fabletics (respectively) on social media to their thousands of followers.
Sources
Sources

From Part 01
From Part 02