In a statement released shortly after the first ISPO Sports Industry CEO Summit in Munich, the international sports industry concluded that only credible product competence makes it possible for companies to employ lifestyle orientation without danger.
The sports industry can no longer ignore the topic of lifestyle, because lifestyle-orientation promises additional growth. However, ill-considered focusing on lifestyle can also hold dangers. This became especially clear at the first ispo Sports Industry CEO Summit, a panel discussion, which the world’s largest sport trade fair held for the first time on February 7 on the grounds of the New Munich Trade Fair Centre.
A “Who is Who” of the international sports industry was represented at the event: Herbert Hainer, Chief Executive Officer of adidas-Salomon AG in Herzogenaurach, David Jacobs, Founder of Spyder Active in Boulder, Colorado, Karl Heinz Salzburger, President of the VF International Outdoor Coalition in Volpago del Montello, Italy, Roger Talermo, Chief Executive Officer of Amer Group, Helsinki, and Professor Christof Breuer, Holder of the Chair for Sports Management at the German Sports College Cologne. Wolf-Dieter Poschmann, Chief Sports Reporter of ZDF, moderated the round of discussions.
Lifestyle products are attractive for consumers especially due to their high degree of identification with sport. “The promises of a manufacturer’s brand must be kept,” Roger Talermo from the Amer Group said, “because the emotions and values of a sport can only be communicated in this way.” Karl Heinz Salzburger from VF Corporation concurred: “Authenticity is something that we put in the forefront. The DNA of each and every sports company is the product.” David Jacobs, the founder of Spyder, agrees: “The product functions come first, and only then the lifestyle.”
“Lifestyle is that which helps our market to grow,” Herbert Hainer from adidas-Salomon declared. Consequently, lifestyle provides substantial opportunities, but it is far from a guarantee for growth: “A company has to be very alert and fast, because the trends in the lifestyle and fashion environment change very quickly.” Accordingly, there is a great danger of missing trends. Companies are at least partially dependent on the market in the clothing and sports shoes area where they do not always have control over the trends. “The Retro trend, for example, was not initiated by the sports industry, but instead came from the street,” according to Mr. Hainer.
Companies have more control over trends in the hardware area on the other hand. In this case, it is rather the product that determines the lifestyle. “For example, snowboarding started with a new product, and then it was followed by the relaxed lifestyle, which is generally associated with snowboarding,” according to Mr. Jacobs.
Segmentation is increasing due to increasing individual demands: “Target groups in the lifestyle environment are becoming smaller and smaller,” Mr. Talermo said, especially because lifestyle does not only address younger target groups: “Especially those older than 50 are cultivating an active lifestyle. They also have more buying power compared to younger target groups.” Segmentation is necessary not only according to age, but also according to gender, country or community membership: “In England, people wear soccer shirts to a stadium, while soccer fans in Italy tend to wear suits when they go to watch their teams play,” Mr. Hainer underlined his point.
“There are increasingly more product lines, and business with lifestyle is becoming increasingly complicated in spite of the great opportunities,” Mr. Salzburger added. The marketing of product lines has also become correspondingly complex: “Twenty years ago, you could reach 80 percent of your target group with a television commercial in the right environment,” Mr. Hainer explained. “It is a lot more complicated today, because substantial segmentation is required.”
Professor Christof Breuer pointed out the problems of lifestyle-orientation: “When a company devotes itself to a lifestyle, it goes in the direction of fashion and away from sports.” Still, lifestyle is a factor that should not be underestimated: “Only 30 percent of the population in Germany exercises or plays sports. The rest of the population has to be reached in another way, for example with lifestyle-inspired products. Consequently lifestyle is added value and often the deciding factor in purchase decisions,” according to Professor Breuer.