Activewear has a new starting line-up. In a startling upset, Adidas dethroned Nike to top this year’s Digital IQ Index: Activewear, the sole Genius brand in the rankings.

In a sector historically dependent on secondary retailers, major bankruptcies and sluggish wholesale numbers have hurt many activewear brands. Adidas exemplifies the potential for achieving growth via direct-to-consumer sales, both online and offline. The brand surpassed Nike with double-digit growth across distribution channels and doubled down on its e-commerce strategy, for which revenue grew by 66%.  

Adidas excels at the fundamentals of social and digital marketing while also using flashier tactics to signal innovation and drive buzz. The brand calibrates product hype cycles to drive paid search traffic and send Confirmed mobile app users to the brand site. Case in point: the 2017 Yeezy collaboration drove nearly a fifth of Adidas’s desktop and mobile traffic.  

Activewear enterprises

Navigating the space between lifestyle and performance, the brand’s micro-influencer network contributed to its outsized Instagram community growth, and Adidas became the top video advertiser in L2’s ranking for the second year in a row. Importantly, this growth didn’t come at the expense of its vertical footprint. From fitness consultations to product customization offerings, the brand has integrated digital and brick-and-mortar properties for a rich consumer experience.

Why did Nike fall to the Gifted class for the first time? Despite having more site traffic than any other brand, Nike made fewer investments in digital than its peers. The brand’s newly launched product pages often fail to provide on-model imagery, and category pages lack quick view, a tactic adopted by 77% of brands in L2’s study. However, Nike has seen a promising start to 2018, with an uptick in online sales buoyed by new women’s-focused initiatives like Unlaced and the launch of the popular AirMax sneaker. A Jordan year may be on the horizon.

Daily Insights in Your Inbox

Edit your preferences or unsubscribe