When Simone Biles made headlines for making her mental health a priority, even if it meant that she had to stop participating in the artistic gymnastics competition at the Olympics, one of the first brands that appeared on my Twitter feed linked to the news was a bit popular. It was neither Nike nor Adidas nor any of the big sports brands that are often linked to the world of the big names in sports.

Her name was Athleta, and she appeared in US media coverage stating that she supported 100% of Biles, her ambassador. Was Athleta a brand in the world of artistic gymnastics? Not really. That that brand name had crept into the first news that impacted companies and not that of the big sports brands was an example of a trend that is stomping in sports marketing.

The Olympics have made it more visible recently, but the trend is not limited to what has happened at the Olympics. It is a general trend. Sportswomen are moving from the big brands, the usual companies that take the big names in sport, to better trust much smaller and much less popular brands. Athleta is one of them. Athleta is a brand of sportswear – activewear, one of the great winners of the pandemic – in the style of Lululemon.

Although it is owned by Gap, the American fashion giant, it is a rather small brand. As noted in The New York Times , which has just analyzed this trend in sports marketing, Ahthlete had not done star endorsements until a couple of years ago, when an Olympic runner, Allyson Felix, denounced the fact that Nike did not support equal to their pregnant athletes. For Nike, it turned into a reputational nightmare.

For Athleta, a marketing opportunity. Then they signed Felix and then they were signing other athletes. The story of this signing starts from a coincidence, but it fits within a general trend. As explained in the Times , a growing number of top-tier female athletes are choosing to avoid the big sports brands that regularly sponsor athletes and partner with smaller companies. The reasons for this change Why do they do it?

The key is in the very nature of those brands and the work they do. They may not have the pull of the giants of sports brands, but athletes prefer them because they feel that they can collaborate in a more varied way, because the relationship is more equitable and because instead of focusing on their results these brands they pay more attention throughout their career and in their presence on social media.

This clashes with the image of the greats in sports marketing. As the US media points out, giants like Nike and Adidas are criticized for focusing too much on results and imposing restrictive contracts.

One runner who left Nike for Lululemon, Colleen Quigley, did so because the relationship was “very transactional” and, when Biles switched to Athelta, she said publicly that the brand was not only looking for her results but also “to help me use my voice and be a voice for women and children. “

The athletes appreciate, therefore, that the relationship is different and much more dimensional, not focused only on that final medal. What it means for brands For smaller brands, this is good news. If everything depended solely on the wallet and the attractiveness of the brand in terms of the market, these athletes would be out of reach, possibly.

In addition, this is what pushes them to collaborate with them fits very well with the universe in which brands must now move. If they choose them, it is because they connect with the brand in a deeper way, in terms of values ​​and aspirations. For the greats, however, this is a potential reputational nightmare, as it is leading to the loss of female athletes at one of the times when they need them most.

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