Breaking Barriers: Localizing Sportswear Innovations for a Global Market


How to Localize Sportswear Innovations for a Global Market

Sportswear has innately global appeal. Fans and players of football, basketball, baseball, cricket, basketball and other disciplines can be found in almost every country on earth. Beyond that, today’s athletic apparel can be used more universally for workouts or day-to-day comfort.

However, brands can sometimes need help with rolling out innovative sportswear globally. In an industry as mature and competitive as sporting apparel, breaking through the noise can seem difficult or even impossible.

Fortunately, it does not have to be that way. Sportswear, and fashion in general, can benefit significantly from localization. When done right, localization can break through the clutter to find consistent success in global markets. 

The Basics of Localization

Whether designed for sports shoes or entirely different industries, localization is a simple concept. It goes a step beyond simply translating your existing marketing strategy. Instead, you’re adjusting the product (and the communication strategy around it) to local audiences. By taking the extra time to ensure the product and marketing strategy align with user needs and expectations, brands can communicate with and ultimately persuade those audiences more successfully.

The results tend to be drastic. In eCommerce, localized ad copy results in click-through rate increases of up to nearly 90%. Meanwhile, locally targeted content results in audience engagement six times higher than content designed for a global audience. Localization works regardless of industry.

Applying Localization to the Sports Apparel Industry

While localization is industry-agnostic, it tends to be especially relevant in sportswear. In fact, the benefits of sportswear localization for your brand can be significant:

  • Make your brand stand out. Focus on unique and local needs to stand apart from more global competitors.
  • Increase your online conversion, leveraging the fact that customers are 70% more likely to buy products from websites in their native language.
  • Improve brand loyalty by building cultural connections with your audiences, ultimately increasing trust and credibility.
  • Raise your search engine ranking by focusing more closely on user needs and preferences in your target cultures.
  • Avoid potential brand image problems by researching your audience well enough to avoid cultural nuances in colors, logos, and messaging.

Most importantly, localized sportswear brands can build customer communities in all of their new markets. Your messaging, marketing, and even the product itself will benefit from an approach focused explicitly on each audience segment you are trying to reach. 

Five Steps to Leveraging Localization for Sportswear Innovations

So far, our discussion of localization in the sports apparel industry has mainly been general. But, while all of the above points remain true regardless of the type of sneakers, shirts, or shorts you are trying to promote, it becomes an especially important concept when looking to bring innovations to market.

In that scenario, your audience is not yet familiar with the product. They will need an even closer introduction to you and your line, which needs to be on their terms. These five steps can help you get there, allowing you to fully leverage the above localization benefits regardless of the market you want to enter and innovate in.

1. Research Your Audience(s)

First, and perhaps most obviously, you need to know every nuance possible about the audience you are looking to reach. Especially when bringing new products to market, you must know how those products hit core audience needs and how those audiences satisfy those needs in their current environment.

Take new sports shoes with extra cushioning as an example. How do those shoes relate to the most popular sports in the country you are looking to enter? Is that sport more prevalent among males or females? What about younger or older athletes? The more you know, the more precisely you can tailor your innovation messaging around those nuances.

2. Perform Localized Competitive Research

The second environmental variable in successful localization revolves around the other players in the market. Even the most innovative products likely still have substitutes that your target audience is either used to or might consider as an alternative. The more you know about those substitutes, the better.

That competitive research revolves not just around the products themselves but also the messaging your competitors use in the local market. Consider building perceptual maps that help you visualize the market and positioning environment you are about to enter.

3. Test a Few Translation Concepts

With the basic research in place, you can move to the testing phase of your innovation roll-out. Begin to test out some messaging that your audience may or may not respond to, but be sure to keep that testing limited in scale.

For example, you can run local focus groups for both your product and the messaging surrounding your product. Alternatively, limited digital campaigns allow you to gauge audience responses to proposed messaging. Avoid broad-scale targeting and keep your range intentionally small to test marketing varieties without accidentally simulating a full roll-out.

4. Find Relevant Local Partners

When it comes to localization, partnerships can become immensely important. These partnerships can take on several potential roles:

  • Local market research partners can help you better understand the environment and audience.
  • Localization partners have dedicated expertise in building marketing and go-to-market campaigns in the countries you want to enter.
  • Influencers and other messaging partners can support your messaging and provide initial credibility.

All of these partnerships can be crucial in a variety of ways.

5. Learn From the Initial Roll-Out

Finally, never assume that your localization efforts are complete once you begin to roll out a marketing campaign for your product innovation. Instead, that campaign in itself can become a crucial learning point for establishing a more comprehensive foothold in the country you are looking to enter.

Finding the Right Partner for Sportswear Localization

Introducing sportswear innovation in new markets can get complicated quickly. Localization is a crucial step to making sure that new audiences will embrace the product itself and your brand as a trustworthy delivery mechanism for the innovation they are experiencing.

To get there, you likely need the right partner. That partner needs to not only embrace localization as a concept but also have extensive experience connecting brands with new audiences on their terms. Ready to learn more about sportswear localization and how your brand can be successful? Contact us to start the conversation.