NEW BRANDS ON THE OLYMPIC STAGE
Summer Olympics open in Tokyo on July 23, after one year delay due to pandemic
No fans will be allowed at Olympic venues due to Covid restrictions
Telfar, Skims and Athleta are some of the brands looking to get the most out of games
The Olympics are a gargantuan fashion opportunity, although it’s usually brands with international marketing budgets able to match the scale of the games that benefit the most. Nike, Adidas and other top sportswear brands cover events with their logos and showcase their latest in-competition performance gear. Ralph Lauren has used the uniforms worn by American athletes during the opening and closing ceremonies to boost its all-American branding since 2008.
But there are a few newcomers to the Olympic scene this year, each with their own plans to make a splash. Telfar sponsors the Liberian team and designs their uniforms (designer Telfar Clemens emigrated from the West African country when he was five). The brand will take advantage of the event to create a buzz for an upcoming sport-inspired collection, including training equipment. Meanwhile, American athletes will wear Skims, the shapewear brand launched by Kim Kardashian in 2019, under their Ralph Lauren and Nike. With its body-positive and racially inclusive message, the brand claims the next generation’s position on Americana. And Athleta, the Gap-owned women’s sportswear brand, has signed two of America’s most prominent Olympic athletes, track star Allyson Felix and gymnast Simone Biles. Both are at the heart of Gap’s plans to double Athleta’s sales to $ 2 billion by 2023 amid a boom in women’s sport.
The bottom line: The pandemic is creating complications for fashion brands looking to capitalize on the Olympics. There will be no crowds in the pits, limiting on-site activations. And the audience at home may be smaller; most major sporting events have seen their television audiences shrink since the start of the pandemic.
APPLICATION OF THE RULES
UK set to lift most remaining pandemic restrictions on July 19
Parts of France and Italy are imposing new rules on gatherings and masks as the Delta variant spreads
Retailers often have to enforce masks and proof of vaccination themselves
The arrival of ‘Freedom Day’ in the UK, when the last lockdown restrictions are lifted, marks the return of nightclubs and maskless shopping, two welcome developments in some fashion circles. It also signals the start of a period of confusion for UK retailers, who will need to define and enforce their own mask rules. In the United States, where most mask mandates were lifted weeks ago, the transition has gone relatively smoothly. (At least if there was a repeat of last year’s wave of maskless shoppers lashing out at terrified store workers, it hasn’t made the rounds on YouTube.) British brands also have an easier time than their counterparts in France, which may soon require proof of vaccination to enter public spaces. Whether it’s checking masks or vaccination cards, it’s a big demand to require salespeople to play bouncer as well.
The bottom line: Even a gradual return to a pre-pandemic shopping experience has been a huge relief for retailers, with sales rebounding quickly. It’s worth putting up with a few more months of awkward encounters with clients who break the rules.
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