Daily Insights

The Top 10 Activewear Brands in Digital

By: Cassidy.McGrain@gartner.com | Jul 08, 2020

While large international brands like Nike and Adidas continue to hold leading positions in the activewear space, the rise of consumer interest in more niche activity-specific offerings, as well as the increasing digital nimbleness of brands, has allowed for new entrants into the top ranks. The top 10 brands in Gartner’s Digital IQ Index: Activewear US 2020 develop sophisticated site features to aid online purchase and promote omnichannel capabilities, utilize creative brand marketing and search strategies to carve out market space, and consider the importance of a balance of quantity and quality when approaching digital marketing.

1. Adidas
Digital IQ: 150

Adidas ties with Nike to return to the number one rank it held in 2018. The former boasts the most engaged Instagram communities across profiles and saw the highest increase in app usership after rebooting its shopping app in 2018. Its engaged community continues to translate to high site traffic, second only to NIKE in monthly site traffic across desktop and mobile.

2. Nike
Digital IQ: 150

Genius brand Nike retains its number one rank for the second year in a row. Nike’s comprehensive digital portfolio includes the most trafficked mobile and desktop sites, some of the largest social audiences across platforms, and highly engaged apps. The brand also has an effective search strategy on both paid and organic that allows it to maintain high visibility across category-specific keywords, supplementing its already significant digital presence.

3. REI
Digital IQ: 146

Moving up from Gifted into the Genius class this year, this brand saw the highest increases in site traffic year-over-year out of the Index. REI excels in category ownership, overshadowing the rest of the Index in terms of nonbranded keyword visibility. Offering more omnichannel capabilities than this year’s two other Genius brands, the outdoor label is positioned to effectively respond to evolving consumer expectations.

4. Under Armour
Digital IQ: 139

Maintaining its position in the Gifted class, Under Armour continues to invest in its social media channels and implement dynamic site features in spite of its internal financial challenges. Boasting one of the most popular YouTube channels, the brand pivoted homepage content to feature at-home workouts in response to the pandemic. The brand is also a leader in the app space, seeing success through its popular fitness app portfolio, which has recently benefited from the combination of increased mobile and home fitness activity. 

5. The North Face
Digital IQ: 136

The North Face upgraded its website by integrating more outdoor guided selling into its homepage and improving its product pages by including an infinity scroll of multiple product images, reducing the area of text per product page, and providing additional information around size and fit. The increased emphasis on outdoor-activity based products and improved usability of the site likely contributed to the overall increase in visitors to the site in the last year. 

6. Patagonia
Digital IQ: 129

Patagonia continues to pivot its focus towards brand community, redesigning its site to better emphasize its activism efforts and highlight specific outdoor activities through stories and product offerings. Its informative product pages include a dynamic size and fit guide as well as transparent descriptions of the product’s country and origin and trade certifications, establishing Patagonia as a leader in socially conscious branding.

6. Vans
Digital IQ: 129

Vans leads on social with some of the highest levels of engagement on YouTube and Instagram in the Index. Investments in social media mirror the brand’s young audience. For example, specific ad campaigns targeted towards its young, female audience similarly see high levels of engagement, especially on mobile where, on average, three-fourths of its customers visit its site from. 

8. L.L.Bean
Digital IQ: 127

L.L.Bean earned a spot in Gartner’s top 10 this year as one of the largest growers in rank. The brand invested in a visual search strategy promoting outdoor gear and apparel through shopping and showcase ads maintaining visibility within the outdoor category. Additionally, the brand promoted its heritage position within the burgeoning sector through display ad content tailored toward the outdoor community.

9. New Balance
Digital IQ: 126

 New Balance has one of the most dynamic loyalty programs in the Index, which includes features such as free shipping on all purchases, members-only products, and a click-n-buy feature integrated on product pages for instant purchasing capabilities. Investments in video paid off for the brand, which had one of the top 10 YouTube channels by views in the Index and also received the most impressions from YouTube ads.

10. Lululemon Athletica
Digital IQ: 125

Lululemon Athletica heavily invests in paid search using shopping ads to establish visibility and ownership of hot button words like ‘leggings’ and ‘yoga mat’. These tactics help the brand achieve the highest shopping ad visibility in the Index on the Gartner-analyzed category ‘pants’ on both mobile and desktop. Solidifying its place in connected fitness, Lululemon introduced an at-home workout series on its site and across social media through the hashtag #TheSweatLife. Subsequently, the brand has seen an increase in social engagement on Instagram as well as an increase in referral traffic to site from social.

10. Athleta
Digital IQ: 125

Athleta joined Lululemon Athletica as a women’s cohort winner this year, rising from Average to Gifted to become a top 10 Index brand. Existing omnichannel capabilities allowed the brand to respond quickly to changing circumstances and capitalize on the new position. The brand promoted its new omnichannel offerings, such as curbside pick up, through homepage pop-ups and by the integration of options on category pages and product pages. Additionally, Athleta added masks into its offering, an item which has rapidly grown into one of the brand’s most popular organically searched terms.