Campaign visuals and social media posts of the sports industry show active, fit and self-confident women who pursue ambitious goals and train persistent to achieve them. However, is it really about offering female athletes – especially runners – women-specific products or is the female target group only in the focus of the respective marketing department?
In part 6 of our running series we asked Adidas, Brooks Running, On and Saucony to what extent they develop products for women from the ground up or whether this is more about design aspects and advertising messages.
“Töchter lauft!” – roughly translated „Run Daughters Run!“ was one of the first and most memorable advertising campaigns for female runners by the sporting goods industry in Germany. It was has been created by world market leader Nike and launched 2010. Within a few months associated local running communities for “daughters”, “Club der Töchter” and the annual “We Own The Night” races took over German cities.
What made it so successful? The communities gathered young, sportive women in big cities who wanted to run together frequently at evenings. A successful initiative that was soon followed by other brands founding their own communities (e.g. Asics Urban Runners and Adidas Runners). Since then targeted, women-specific marketing has arrived in the running industry and manufacturers are increasingly focusing on female runners when selecting advertising channels and creating marketing activities.
What women want? A question that continues to interest experts in the running industry. How does the female consumer behaviour in online and offline sports retail look like and which criteria are crucial for purchase?
The American sports shoe brand Saucony focuses on the look. Mika Froesch, County Manager Germany/Austria: “Women particularly pay attention to an attractive mix of technology and lifestyle. In addition to an appealing design, it is important that the products are equipped with the same technologies as comparable models from the performance colour range.”
He describes Saucony’s approach which focuses solely on female design: “We meet these requirements with our two colour ways in the shoe range and a fashion-oriented textile collection. We currently offer our shoe models in a performance-oriented colour and a fashion-inspired look.”
Brooks Running also concentrates on specific females designs in their shoe and clothing collections: “We adapted our designs last season. Especially the women’s collection has become ways more fashionable and combines high-quality functionalities with a lifestyle appearance,” says Lara Hasagic, Brooks Running Marketing Germany/Austria/Switzerland.
When it comes to fit and functionality, the manufacturers’ opinions differ. Does it really need a running shoe developed specifically for the female foot, or is it enough to adjust the sizes of the unisex models?
To meet the growing number of female runners, Adidas recently introduced UltraBOOST X, a shoe technology especially for women. Adidas spokesman Oliver Brüggen explains: “Thanks to the specific female construction, the shoe adapts perfectly to the arch of the foot and provides even more comfort. We are in constant exchange with athletes, influencers and female consumers to develop optimal products together.”
Unlike the sporting goods giant, the running product specialists Brook Running and On see no need or demand for technologies that are used exclusively for female models.
„Running is no gender-specific sport, so we have never addressed a specifically male or female target group,“ says Lara Hasagic. „Brooks Running shoes are always available in a version for men and one for women. The women’s models differ in fit and width, as the female foot differs in proportion and size from the male.”
Martin Borgenheimer, Sales Manager Germany for the Swiss brand On explains: “On now has the fight shoe for every type of runner. However, we differentiate our products according to the desired running feeling and requirements of the individual runner, rather than according to gender. We are a performance, not a lifestyle brand. That’s why this will remain our focus. We use different lasts for men's and women's models. Yet, many of our models are visually identical for men and women.”
In our series of interviews with the running brands Adidas, Puma, Saucony, Brooks Running, Salomon, Icebug and LaSportiva, running experts explain the most important developments in running in 2018.