Beyond Outward Appearance: How Top Activewear Brands Connect Through Culture


Gone are the days when simply offering fashionable, high-quality clothing was enough to keep customers returning for more. Consumers are now looking for a deeper emotional connection with brands. They want to feel like they are part of a broader culture and are likelier to support brands that align with their values and beliefs.

So which athletic apparel brands are successfully making authentic cultural connections with their customers? Here are a few of our faves!

Emotional Connection: Vuori

Vuori is a multi-million dollar athletic and lifestyle activewear brand whose mission is to create quality products for the pursuit of a happy life, empowering deeper connections through fitness, nature, creativity, and community. To foster brand loyalty, Vuori taps into its customers’ emotions in several ways:

  • Owning an active and happy lifestyle: Vuori promotes a healthy and active lifestyle, emphasizing the importance of spending time in nature and being active outdoors. The company’s “investment in happiness” resonates deeply with customers who value a lifestyle that promotes their overall well-being and happiness.
  • Commitment to high-quality products: From the moment customers touch the fabric they are transported to a place of happiness and comfort thanks to the premium materials used in every piece. The brand’s focus on using soft, breathable, and sustainable materials allows customers to experience ultimate comfort and joy when wearing their clothing.
  • Highlighting bright and bold colors: The brand’s clothing often features bright and bold colors inspired by the sunny and warm coastal California way of life. This helps to evoke positive emotions and creates a warm visual connection with the brand’s happy lifestyle positioning.

A Sense of Community: The North Face

The North Face is a well-known outdoor equipment and apparel brand that offers high-quality products. With a commitment to exploring and inspiring, the company aims to create a sense of community among its customers and make a difference not just for them, but also for the planet. Some examples of initiatives that support their communities include:

  • Explore Fund Council: The North Face has supported communities of explorers since 2010, focusing on access and equity in the outdoors. In 2019, they adopted a culturally relevant approach to grantmaking and later formed the Explore Fund Council in 2020 to bring their vision to life. This continues their commitment to empower communities of explorers and builds brand loyalty. 
  • Athlete Development Program: This program is designed to support and develop young athletes in a variety of outdoor sports. The program fosters a strong sense of community and belonging among participants by providing them with resources and opportunities to grow and compete. This leads to a deeper connection with the brand and its values, fostering a strong sense of brand loyalty among both program participants and their supporters.

Eco-Friendly Practices: Patagonia

Patagonia’s approach to environmental sustainability centers around building durable, repairable outdoor gear and apparel, while limiting harm to the planet. Here are some of the ways this brand has made an authentic effort to protect nature and develop innovative solutions to environmental challenges: 

  • Billionaire No More: Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, has handed over his company to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. The company is valued at around $3B and all of its profits, an estimated $100MM per year, are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. Chouinard has stated that he hopes this will influence a new form of capitalism inspired by his deep love for the environment. 
  • Environmental activism: Patagonia has donated 1% of its sales to environmental preservation since 1985 and in 2002, it launched its 1% for the Planet initiative to encourage other businesses to do the same. Businesses who join this alliance donate 1% of their sales to environmental groups, affect real change, and receive recognition and support from conscientious consumers.
  • Repair and reuse: Patagonia’s Worn Wear program encourages consumers to buy less, repair more, and trade in gear they no longer need. The brand also utilizes recycled materials in the production of its clothing and gear, reducing waste and conserving resources.

Athletic apparel brands must go beyond offering fashionable and high-quality clothing to build brand loyalty. By connecting emotionally with customers, fostering a sense of community, and prioritizing eco-friendly practices, brands like Vuori, The North Face, and Patagonia are leading the way in building lasting connections with their customers. Marketing teams can learn from these brands to make stronger, more meaningful connections with their target audiences.

Let’s talk today and partner up to build long-lasting brand loyalty, drive sustainable growth through culture and innovation, and make a positive impact!

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