Which sports brands are leading in digital?

L2 looks at 56 of the leading sportswear names around the globe and analyses four key features of their digital activities to generate the index: site & ecommerce, digital marketing, mobile and social media.

Nike top the index with an IQ score of 151 and an online strategy L2 describes as ‘genius.’

Not only is the sports brand leading the way across social media (see the massive YouTube presence) and cross-channel integration (e.g. Nike’s heavily Facebook-connected running app) – but it has also pioneered with onsite capabilities, including allowing shoppers to customise more than 450 items on its ecommerce site.

The North Face, REI and Adidas also rank highly. These brands average index scores of more than 146 and are leading their competitors alongside Nike.

Social sportswear

Unsurprisingly, social media is proving invaluable to sportswear brands keen to drive engagement with their fans and customers.

For the last two years, all the companies included in L2’s index have had a presence on Facebook and YouTube, with Twitter seeing a slight drop in usage (100% in 2012 to 98% in 2013).

Alongside the big three, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Vine have all seen increases in adoption as brands such as Oakley, Vans and Speedo turn to channels which are well suited for displaying new products in action and can see such content shared far and wide almost immediately.

Moving to mobile

Mobile is increasingly becoming an important channel for sportswear brands to connect and sell directly to customers. 93% of the brands in L2’s index with mobile sites have m-commerce functionality and 85% have a store locator.

Aside from the aforementioned use of apps by Nike et al, the sportswear market is also leading development of wearables – which incorporate mobile and network technology into useful on-body items such as Nike’s own FuelBand and Adidas’ miCoach. By 2018, L2 forecasts 250m wearable units will be shipped worldwide.

Sport and digital takeaways

The sportswear market is an interesting ecosystem for observing developments in digital marketing, as well as onsite customer engagement and utilising new technologies to help customers even when they are away from their computer, tablet and smartphone screens.

Customization options when consumers are choosing products are proving useful for site visitors, and a good reason for prospective shoppers to visit brand pages rather than third-party sites. Additionally, using mobile and social technology to enrich products in action and – ultimately – the lifestyles of users is a good way to drive up engagement and spread positive brand-related sentiment online.

Not all sportswear brands are succeding in digital, however, and big name brands such as Fila, Umbro and K-Swiss should be looking to 2014 to boost their digital IQ and connect with more customers in the online sphere.

For more ecommerce, social and mobile stats from around the web and our own researchers, see our Internet Statistics Compendium. To drill down into the data in more depth download the full Digital IQ Index report here.