What would be the right strategy when introducing a brand in a highly commoditised market such as apparel and accessories in the sports industry?

What can a brand do to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace such as the sports accessory space. Would it be the brand story and brand attributes that are the winning ingredients to win in this hyper competitive market or would it have to be innovation.


The sports space is certainly crowded, but the size of the market creates plenty of opportunity. This is not a zero sum game.

The key to differentiation in a crowded space, is focusing on what it is that makes your product/brand unique? Do you have a story that is compelling? Has your product increased strength by X%, or saved lives, or fill a specific need within an interesting space.

Some great new products to review, that have entered into the space recently would be:

What you'll see, is that they have crafted their brand message to get to the core of the user experience. Find your story - one that resonates with your target users. Then tell it loudly!

Answered 11 years ago

+1 Laura. Storytelling is key.

Keep in mind that a good story needs to be tailored to your audience, so understanding who you're selling to is really important. I find archetypes, or storytelling patterns, super helpful, too.

You also need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. You can't afford to be generic. Authors use a process called 'character profiling' to develop robust voices, and this technique works really well for developing your brand's voice as well.

I recently gave a presentation about these two techniques. Here are the slides if you want to learn more:

If you have any questions, here's my link for a free call. I'd be happy to chat with you.

Answered 11 years ago

This is certainly a tough category. Understanding that your story must be compelling, innovation should tie into it.
Why did you develop the product? What was your need? Where did you see the gap in the marketplace? How did you do this? And on and on....
The upside of this market is that although crowded, there is an audience for a story that resonates, touching the heart and body of your target market. Getting them this information in the way they want to hear it will be key to success.
Question: are you focusing on online sales or in-store? All of this will need to be addressed as the story is developed.

Answered 11 years ago

As a sports agent and sports business strategist, I understand the concerns and questions you have. I would advise that you first need identify local teams in your market. Then the next task would be to answer the question of how can I pitch my product to a team or athlete? Once have found a team or athlete, let that team or athlete sample the product over a period for free. Please ensure you are able to explain what your product does for the athlete or team in laymen's terms. Don't make the pitch to the team or the athlete anymore stressful than it has to be. Their experience with the product tells a story in itself. Keep in mind Training Mask ( was an unknown product until people started asking what is that mask Marshawn Lynch is wearing on his face during his warm-ups. Under Armor used their network as former students at the University of Maryland to promote and popularize their original product.This maybe an easier task in a smaller market where there are not 4 or 5 professional teams. Teams in markets with only the NBA or MLB or let's say MLS are more likely to have a closer connection to the community, than let's New York, LA, or Chicago where there are 4 or 5 major sport Professional Teams and everyone is trying to get access to those guys. If you are in a large market I would look at MLS teams and their affiliates or MLB teams and their Minor league affiliates. If your product is more basketball or football centric don't be afraid to look at options abroad in Europe to pitch your product. The athlete will tell other athletes about the product. You have a basic narrative on #1 Why your product is innovative and worth the consumers time and money. #2 As I stated earlier the athlete or the team tells your brand story for you. #3 The athletes who utilize the product can also help improve or streamline your product before you go to the consumer with it, through their experience with your product.

Feel free to contact me, I would love to hear more about your product.

Answered 6 years ago

Eventually every product or service will become a me-too commodity that competes on price alone. The pace of product and service innovation is now so accelerated that one can hardly determine who is first to market with a valuable new idea before a competitor knocks it off, adds a feature and lowers the price. A little over a decade ago the mantra of “continuous improvement” was what everybody in product development believed was fashionable thinking. Regardless of the product category, very soon everyone else will be offering those same features. To exploit full market potential, marketers are charged with broadening the appeal to the largest customer segment possible. This established trend has critical implications for marketers struggling with brand relevance and differentiation–especially in low emotional involvement categories like soft drinks, breakfast cereals, underwear, and car insurance. It is my belief it will be essential for marketers to realize that new products, no matter how innovative at their introduction, will become the accepted norm in the category at vastly discounted prices.
To lock onto relevant differentiation means to provide something that is highly valued and not in abundant supply. Innovate greater meanings not more function. The infinite value of product innovation is found in what the innovation means to people. In the face of this rapid commoditization of everything, marketers must buck this trend by using their collective creative imaginations to fashion a higher meaning around their products and services. Fruit of the Loom dominated men’s underwear – available everywhere for about $1 a pair until Calvin Klein un-commoditized the category by presenting the valuable idea that it is ok for men to feel and be sexy. When your brand or product provides new meanings to people, it automatically extends it is use value to people in such a way that price is no longer the issue and competitors are no longer relevant. To get “there” requires a dedicated and continuous creative effort to uncommoditize your value to people by proposing new meanings that separate your brand from the slush pile.
Many of us have been faced with what seemed like insurmountable hurdles to establish brand identity in market categories that have gravitated to price as the key driver – as you have mentioned. First, most people make decisions based on subjective criteria, not objective criteria. It is true that most shoppers in all categories think they are making purchase decisions based on a set of criteria that leads them to purchases of the “best” product for the price. However, when it comes down to which product consumers reach for, it is not always based on price, or perceived value. My second point is that given consumers make purchase decisions based on subject criteria, then why do marketers continue to focus messages on features, value, and specifications – these all fall in the mix of objective criteria. If marketers are not out trying to be everything to everybody, then I strongly suggest they focus efforts on messaging that supports the kind of experience they want consumers to have with their brand.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 3 years ago

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