ISPO Munich/01/29/2018

How the sports industry can gain more female customers

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Over the past few years, the target group “women” has become increasingly more important for the sports industry. Female experts from the brands Reebok, K2, Marmot and Rossignol and the platform Munich Mountain Girls show how the sporting goods industry can reach women even better.

ISPO Munich Women's Lounge offers room for talks, networking and serves as a source of inspiration.

The ISPO Women’s Lounge is one of the major attractions of the ISPO Munich 2018: The trade visitors really appreciate the discussion rounds, “Experts4Women” tours of the trade fair, get-togethers and the lounge itself.

The industry has learnt a lot over the past years when it comes to women, however, there is still plenty to discuss. Four key issues emerged during the discussion rounds, the guided trade fair tours and the conversations in the lounge:

  1. The development of products specifically for women
  2. The differentiation of the target group “women”
  3. Marketing: Appealing to female sports enthusiasts
  4. The way female customers are dealt with by retailers

1. Development of products specifically for women

Simone Adelwart is a marketing manager at K2; in this capacity, she focuses especially on the target group “women”: “In the sports industry, men are often still assumed to be the first people that must be addressed,” she says. In actual fact, “we should see an equal development.” However, especially when it comes to hard goods, the version for men is usually the first one to be produced; it is then followed by a version for women, often merely as a “sideline”.

To ensure that K2 practices a different approach, the company has established the “Women’s Alliance”. It consists of around 50 female skiers with different expectation profiles. Their feedback from trial runs is used for new and further developments. Many brands pursue a similar approach. For example Rossignol. However, Marion Bonnard, Category Manager Women Alpine Ski, also says that the industry tends to differentiate “according to performance level”, rather than according to gender, when it comes to advanced skiers.

Discussion in the ISPO Women's Lounge at the ISPO Munich 2018.
Image credit:
Messe München GmbH

2. The differentiation of the target group “women”

Nina Schwind also mentions this. She is a sports industry PR and marketing expert and actively involved with the Munich Mountain Girls, a community for female outdoor sports enthusiasts: “In my opinion, many brands still stereotype women far too much.” She says that particularly when more is expected of a product because “the level of expertise is higher”, the choice for women is limited or even non-existent.

“The brands mustn’t brush this under the carpet with the argument that the numbers are simply too marginal,” Schwind says. Just like the founder of Munich Mountain Girls, Christine Prechsl, she is convinced that the demand will grow.

According to Prechsl, this is not least proven by the lively interest in the Munich Mountain Girls. With her initiative, she wants to inspire women to pursue outdoor sports and to meet other women who share their interest. The Munich Mountain Girls are a roaring success in the social media. In the course of her discussions with the other women, Prechsl realized that they really do have widely different requirements. There is plenty of room for improvement, especially when it comes to “the outdoor sports products aimed at beginners”.  In future, she would therefore like to see “more quality, rather than quantity”.

3. Marketing: Appealing to female sports enthusiasts

Many in the industry agree that women need to be approached differently to men. However, many brands are aware of the fact that they are lagging behind in this area, or are only just realizing this. The industry giant Reebok is, of course, one step further already. Martina Jahrbacher, Senior Director Business Development Reebok: “We have initiated ‘shop the look’ concepts, for example, where photographs show the products from lots of different angles, and we also have a live chat.” Apparently, women particularly value these aspects.

Jahrbacher is convinced that a lot more will be happening in the entire healthy lifestyle area, and that this is especially important to women. “Women will drive this issue.”

Marmot Mountain Europe also agrees that a different approach is needed to appeal to women. The outdoor brand ensures that it tends to appeal to women with emotional image material and more videos: “It’s also OK to focus more on the group experience,” says sales manager Beatrice Beran. She says that when it comes to appealing to men, the focus tends to be more on athletic top performances or the technical product specifications.

4. The way female customers are dealt with by retailers

At Marmot, Beran is the only female sales manager. “The female buyers who work for the retailers really appreciate the fact that I am a woman,” she says. Beran goes on to say that products for women also deserve special attention from the retailers, as this was the only way to ensure that female end consumers can be advised appropriately.

K2 has even initiated a dedicated event for female retailers, says K2 manager Adelwart: “Especially hard ware sales call for lengthy consultations. We want the retailers to sell our products, so we have to ensure that female customers are given the best-possible advice.”

In the ISPO Women’s Lounge, the opinions on the four key subjects are varied: “We can generate important impulses here which the product developers, the retailers and the marketing experts should take on board,” says Moni Fiedler, the organizer of the Lounge. “It’s up to them to respond appropriately.”