Athleisure Brands That Are On the Move

Catherine Kulke
Catherine Kulke
Mar 22, 2021

It’s 2021, which means fitness is a lifestyle. And athleisure (think versatile, comfy leggings and tanks that look just as good at the grocery store as at the gym) is here for it. Athleisure brands are rapidly gaining traction among bloggers; traditional activewear brands, maybe not so much. From February 2020 to January 2021, the top five athleisure brands by Earned Media Value (EMV)—Gymshark, Alo Yoga, Fabletics, Lululemon, and Alphalete—averaged a 37% year-over-year growth (compared to February 2019 to January 2020). In contrast, the top five activewear brands—Nike, Adidas, Puma, Reebok, and New Balance—averaged a 6% YoY uptick, suggesting influencers are increasingly opting for more fashionable and adaptable at-home workout digs. Here’s how leading brands in both categories are moving the needle with winning influencer marketing strategies

A fitness influencer in clothing from an athleisure brand stretching on a dock.

Athleisure Brands Build Sustained Relationships With Fitness Influencers

  • Fitness studio favorite Gymshark didn’t let gym closures stop it from sweeping social media last year. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, fitness influencers like Whitney Simmons (@whitneyysimmons on Instagram) consistently sported Gymshark while getting in shape safely, helping mentions of #HomeWorkout power $19.9M EMV via 157 content creators during the time frame monitored. The No. 1 athleisure brand powered $350.6M EMV from February 2020 to January 2021, enjoying a 21% year-over-year increase fueled by a surge in at-home workout content. 

A line graph displaying monthly EMV for the 5 top athleisure brands from February 2019 to January 2021.

  • Look out, Lululemon: actress Kate Hudson’s athleisure brand Fabletics is rapidly emerging as influencers’ go-to label for everyday leggings. Fabletics boasted the greatest year-over-year growth among top athleisure brands from February 2020 to January 2021, with its $156.6M EMV marking a 136% YoY improvement. The stylish, practical label owes its success largely to high-profile collaborators like dancer Maddie Ziegler (@maddieziegler on Instagram), who have time-honored relationships with Fabletics. Maddie generated $9.4M EMV across an impressive 264 posts during the time period monitored, up from $4.0M via 73 mentions in the previous 12 months. 

  • If athleisure brands went to high school, SETActive would be the cool new kid that everyone wants to sit with. Launched in 2017, the L.A.-based label is a wardrobe staple among Gen Z influencers like Avani Gregg (@avani on Instagram) and Kalani Hilliker (@kalanihilikler), who flaunt its signature sets in daily outfit posts. Thanks to high-impact endorsements from the next generation of social media superstars, the brand collected $20.0M EMV from 1.1k content creators during the time frame monitored, achieving a 50% year-over-year EMV growth and a 254% YoY increase in community size. 

A fitness influencer in apparel from an activewear brand on an exercise ball.

Sports Coverage and Sneaker Hype Drive Conversation About Top Activewear Brands

  • Long synonymous with quality sportswear, Nike has defended its throne as the top EMV-driving activewear brand by a wide margin, raking in $867.9M EMV from February 2020 to January 2021. The athletic giant guaranteed a steady stream of content throughout the year by outfitting professional soccer teams, including the Liverpool Football Club and Barcelona Football Club. Soccer news accounts like Soccer Bible (@soccerbible on Instagram) tirelessly covered these collaborations in content tagged #NikeFootball, which accounted for $33.9M EMV of the brand’s total during the time period monitored. Nike also scored consistent mentions from sneaker retailers, publications, and content aggregators, which accounted for all of its top 10 earners. 

A line graph displaying monthly EMV for the 5 top activewear brands from February 2020 to January 2021.

  • New Balance isn’t just for your dad’s jogging shoes anymore. The activewear brand upped its street cred in July 2020, when it teamed up with Jaden Smith (@c.syresmith on Instagram) on the hotly anticipated Vision Racer sneaker. The drop, which saw impactful promotion from Jaden himself, drew widespread coverage among sneaker publications and content aggregators like Hypebeast (@hypebeast) and Sneaker News (@sneakernews): the two accounts ranked as New Balance’s No. 1 and No. 2 EMV-drivers, respectively, from February 2020 to January 2021. Buoyed by activity around the Vision Racer, New Balance collected $79.1M EMV during the time frame monitored, achieving a stand-out 90% year-over-year growth. 

As wellness remains a hot topic for influencers and consumers alike, brands that help individuals stay active in style are well-positioned for continued success. To read more about how top athleisure brands are getting ahead on social media, download our Influencer Marketing Playbook for Health, Fitness, and Wellness Brands.