Blog: Channelling the Olympic spirit

Petah Marian | 18 July 2012

A colleague expressed horror earlier this week on realising that the only entry to the Olympic stadiums in London will be through a purpose-built Westfield Mall. She was surprised at the rampant commercialism of the games.

However, the furore following news that the US Olympic team's uniforms were made in China instead of on home soil, only emphasises just how important the Olympics are to the apparel and footwear sectors.

After an outpouring of opprobrium on Friday and over the weekend, Ralph Lauren promised that the American team uniforms for the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics would be produced by US firms.

While this particular issue has caught the public's imagination, the road to 2012 has been marred by scandal, with NGOs alleging child labour use and worker exploitation in factories producing licenced goods for the Olympics. 

The Olympics are expected to be watched by 4bn people around the world, and with a lack of perimeter advertising, the clothes on the athletes' backs (and shoes on their feet) offer sportswear companies the greatest opportunity to promote their wares.

And how better to do so than to take some of the credit for athletes' success, through designing products that will make them harder, better, faster, stronger, and so on.

In recent months, major sportswear brands have been keen to tout their latest innovations, some of which have improved athletes' performances to such a degree that they've been banned.

For example, Speedo's LZR Racer Swimsuit was prohibited because it provides an unfair advantage over non-LZR wearers. According to Euromonitor analyst Magdalena Kondej, the suit reduces drag by up to 6% on swimmers and is made using a fabric containing woven elastane-nylon and polyurethane.

However the brand will see the benefit of its latest suit, the Fastskin3, which claims to offer full-body passive drag reduction of up to 16.6%, an 11% improvement in the swimmer's oxygen economy, and a 5.2% reduction in body active drag.

Patriotism, particularly well highlighted by the manufacturing furore in the US, should not be underestimated. Kondej predicts that based on average apparel spend, population size, sports attitudes and strength of the national teams, GB, US, China, Russia and German team branded apparel will be particularly strong sellers.

In a year when the consumer environment means that companies are scrabbling for every dollar or pound they can get their hands on, the Olympics provide companies with a magnificent opportunity. Here's hoping the sector gets the gold this Olympics.


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