Adidas vs. Nike For Women

Nike and Adidas make up some of the biggest brands in activewear but how do they fair in the womenswear market? In this report, discover the top performing activewear product categories, key product launches and overview on pricing.

Written by Ashley LooiDecember 20, 2019

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Introduction

2019 has been a spotlight year for women in sports with trailblazers like Simone Biles’ record breaking weekend at the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championship and Sarah Thomas becoming the first person to swim the Channel four times non-stop.

Due to emerging female empowerment movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, the “shrink it and pink it” approach applied by athletic brands are no longer good enough. Women have been turning to female-centric brands like Lululemon and Athleta.

Declaring 2019 as its ‘Year of Women’, Nike released ‘Dream Crazier’ campaign fronted by Serena Williams, showcasing women’s exceptional athletic performance. The brand also sponsored the US Women’s World Cup that rose to victory in July.

Adidas released a campaign entitled ‘Now is Her Time’, celebrating female empowerment in collaboration with Pharrell Williams. Adidas also landed a collaboration with Beyoncé to relaunch her Ivy Park collection in January 2020.

In this report, we compared the performance of Nike and Adidas for women by analysing four markets, namely UK and US in the west alongside Malaysia and Singapore (MY and SG) in the Southeast Asian region. More than 41,000 data points were tracked from January to December 2019.

 

All data used in this report comes from products retailing online as tracked by Omnilytics, unless otherwise mentioned.

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Global vs. Local Performance

Nike and Adidas are giants in the sportswear industry but how well do they fare against each other in womenswear?

 

Global Performance

Nike was ahead of Adidas on total sell-out rate despite having less SKUs and discounting.

 

MY and SG Performance

Both brands were tied for total sell-out rate at 81% but Nike drove more than 3 times higher sell-out rate at full price driven by high new-in rate at 75%, despite its higher median price than Adidas.

Adidas while offering a wide assortment with 4,250 more SKUs than Nike, 85% of total assortment was discounted products.

Nike demonstrated strong brand loyalty in both global and the local regions, with newness at the right price driving success.

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Assortment Overview

Nike and Adidas are mostly known for their footwear, but there were other sales drivers in the assortment.

 

Top 3 Categories for Nike (Total 4 Markets)

  1. Shoes
  2. Top & T-Shirts
  3. Pants & Leggings

 

Top 3 Categories for Adidas (UK and US)

  1. Shoes
  2. Top & T-Shirts
  3. Outerwear

 

Top 3 Categories for Adidas (MY and SG)

  1. Shoes
  2. Top & T-Shirts
  3. Accessories

 

Accessories made it to the top 3 categories for Adidas in MY and  SG markets, overtaking Pants & Leggings and Outerwear. Most of the contribution to Accessories sell-out came from backpacks, socks and headwear.

content image-4 Adidas vs. Nike For Women

Top Performing Categories

The categories with the highest sell-out for Nike in MY and SG were Shoes, Tops & T-Shirts and  Pants & Leggings whereas Adidas’ were Shoes, Tops & T-Shirts and Accessories.

 

Shoes

Shoes comprised of 63% of Nike’s total assortment but only 24% of Adidas’. Sneakers were extremely popular for both brands, a majority of which came in core coloured uppers with just a splash of colour.

 

Tops & T-Shirts

14% of Nike’s assortment was made up of Tops & T-Shirts whereas the category made up 33% of Adidas’ assortment.

The most important function of the category is to wick sweat from the athlete’s body. Both brands had derived their own technology for performance fabric, Primeknit for Adidas and Dri-Fit for Nike. More than 75% of tops in both brands came in core colours  – black, white, blue and grey. The popular fashion colours in the category were red, pink and purple for both brands.

content image-5 Adidas vs. Nike For Women

Top Performing Categories (Cont’d)

Pants & Leggings

Tights & Leggings made up most of Nike’s Pants & Leggings category. These products featured punchy colours and bold prints. Similar to the Tops & T-Shirts category, the performance fabric used is Dri-Fit and is mostly seen in leggings.

 

Accessories

The category mainly consisted of socks, hats and bags which took up 67% contribution of accessories.

Adidas’ accessories had more minimalistic designs and focused on core colours that donned the brand’s signature trefoil logo.

content image-6 Adidas vs. Nike For Women

Pricing Overview

Nike had a higher median price than Adidas in MY and SG markets. A closer look at the price bands of the top 3 categories revealed interesting insights.

Nike priced higher in both the Tops & T-Shirts and Pants & Leggings categories respectively. However, Adidas set higher prices on Shoes than Nike to reveal the brand’s focus on driving premium footwear.

 

Note: [1] Subscribe to Omnilytics dashboard to access the module.

content image-7 Adidas vs. Nike For Women

Pricing Overview (Cont’d)

Discounting Strategy

Throughout 2019, Nike and Adidas both favoured the 20-29% discount band in MY and SG markets. Nike’s discounting strategy was focused on the range of 10-39% whereas Adidas concentrated at discounts higher than 20% and had a wider spread up to 89%. Most of the discounts offered for both brands were for Shoes and Tops & T-Shirts.

Black Friday Deals

Both Nike and Adidas standardised Black Friday discount mechanics across all 4 markets.

Nike’s promotion was ‘Buy 2 get 40% off” on its Black Friday Collection with the promo code ‘BFCM40’. The brand also offered an additional 25% off on sale items when shoppers used the promo code ‘SEASONMVP” upon checkout.

The Adidas Black Friday sale offered 30-50% discount on selected sneakers, clothing and accessories. The sale included popular shoes like the Adidas Ultraboost 2019 and Adidas Stan Smith.

content image-8 Adidas vs. Nike For Women

Iconic Products

Although both brands have iconic products that distinguish one from the other, Nike leans towards performance shoes while Adidas towards more lifestyle-inspired. The iconic products are all made available in MY and SG, however the variety is limited as not all colourways are offered.

Among Nike’s most notable products are Nike Air Force 1,  Nike Air Max and Nike Air Jordan, whereas Adidas’ distinguished products comprised of Adidas Superstar, Adidas NMD and Adidas Ultraboost.

The Air Max range had three times as many SKUs as the other Nike iconic products because there are multiple designs within the Air Max range like the Nike Air Max 270,  Nike Air Max 97 and Nike Air Max 95 to name a few.

Adidas’ iconic products drove higher sell-out than Nike’s, despite being tied on total sell-out rate at brand level in MY and SG. Even at nearly double of Nike’s total SKU count, Adidas opted for a smaller assortment when it came to its iconic product lines to maintain exclusivity.

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Subculture-Led Products

Both brands identified and took leverage of trending subcultures to incorporate into their designs for capsule collections. A key difference between the two would be the target demographic. Spongebob Squarepants and Stranger Things appealed to a younger audience. On the other hand, Game of Thrones and Stars Wars attracted mature audiences due to the mature themes of the former and long standing fanbase of the latter.

Another difference between Nike and Adidas were the featured products in the collaborations. Nike’s collections extended across footwear, accessories and apparel, whereas Adidas focused on its iconic footwear in collaborative efforts.

MY and SG had a higher number of SKUs for the Nike x Stranger Things because the UK was only limited to apparel.

 

Assortment SKU Count by Market

 

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Collaborations

Both Nike and Adidas engaged in cross-collaborations with high profile brands and celebrities. Nike went a step ahead by drawing focus to the Women’s World Cup by engaging prominent female designers to curate a lifestyle collection surrounding the event.

 

Nike

Nike engaged with Off-White to curate a Nike x Off-White collection showcases more on apparel rather than footwear. Nike also secured four female designers Yoon Ahn, Christelle Kocher, Erin Magee and Marine Serre for its football inspired lifestyle collection.

 

Adidas

Adidas and Pharrell Williams came together to launch a campaign titled “Her Time is Now” to empower women through the power of representation and bold choices. Adidas also has a longstanding collaboration with Stella McCartney on female-centric collections.

 

Assortment SKU Count by Market

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Inclusivity

Nike Stadium Tees

Nike sponsored 14 out of the 24 teams that participated in the Women’s World Cup, three of which entered the finals. The US team eventually won the title, which led to a big win for Nike as its USA Women’s World Cup shirt became its bestselling jersey of all time, even outperforming the men’s jersey.

The stadium tees that were offered in MY and SG, while small, comprised of prominent teams of USA, England, France and Australia.

 

Nike Yoga Collection

Nike debuted its new yoga collection with the use of mannequins mimicking yoga poses. The Nike Yoga Collection is also designed for other studio workouts like dance and barre. The range is available in plus sizes but not extended to MY and SG markets.

The collection was a success with an 88% sell-out rate. The yoga collection was made available in MY and SG with a narrower offering but failed to perform as well as UK and US market with a sell-out rate of 39%.

 

Assortment SKU Count by Market

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Inclusivity (Cont’d)

Nike Pro Hijab

Nike introduced the Pro Hijab to help Muslim women in sports perform better. The designers got several athletes to test the initial prototype of the Nike Pro Hijab in their respective sports and gathered their feedback to cater to the female athletes’ needs.

The results of Nike efforts can be seen where the Nike Pro Hijab sold out in MY and SG, countries with a large population of Muslim women. However, the assortment offered was smaller despite the high Muslim concentration in MY and SG.

 

Plus Size

Nike brilliantly used plus sized mannequins to bring awareness to the brand’s plus size range while Adidas worked together with Universal Standard to come up with plus size offerings.

Nike had a wider plus size range compared to Adidas. The brand showed sincerity on inclusivity by making its plus size assortment available in MY and SG, albeit a narrow offering. The Adidas x Universal Standard collection failed to reach MY and SG.

 

Assortment SKU Count by Market

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Conclusion

Main Findings

Nike was Leading at Sell-Out: Adidas had a wider assortment range than Nike at global level and up to 2x more in the MY and SG region. The brand also had over 70% of SKUs on discount. However, these strategies failed to translate to sell-out rates higher than Nike.

Nike was leading in sell-out, by giving what the consumer wants with the right products. Nike continues to focus on driving women’s sports performance and inclusivity offering more than influencer marketing as heavily invested by Adidas.

Tighter but Credible Localised Assortment: Both brands offered limited assortments in MY and SG compared to the UK and US. Having said that, Nike did better in the local markets than Adidas, with credible representations of its  many capsules.

The brand catered to the local demands by introducing Nike Pro Hijab and Nike Plus Size collections. Although its local plus size collection was much smaller at just 13 SKUs, it showed an understanding that Asians generally have smaller builds, hence do not require an offering as wide as its global markets. Nike also paid attention to the Southeast Asian region’s conservative culture by refraining from introducing its pride-inspired BETRUE collection.

 

Next Steps for Brands

Keep Tab on Subcultures: With increasing demand led by the consumers, brands should leverage on subcultures to spot emerging trends.

Omnilytics dashboard monitors trends across different markets and brands with ease. With keyword search function, retailers can assess the brands that stocked “Stranger Things” along with trade performance.

Brand Positioning: For decades, Nike has been empowering women in sports. The brand heightened this act by announcing 2019 as “Year of Women” with MY and SG well-represented of women exclusive capsules, most notably for Pro-Hijab and plus size collections. Its hyped BETRUE pride collection was not extended to the Southeast Asia region, demonstrating an understanding of the region’s conservative cultures.

Adidas knew well to play in a different space than Nike, and positioned itself at the intersection of sports and street styles for women with its “Now is Her Time” campaign.

While it is important for every retailer to have accurate information about market demands, it is also about mapping the findings against its brand positioning to derive informed decisions and strategies that tactfully capture its target market audience.

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Meet the Author

Ashley Looi

Ashley Looi combines her major in econometrics with her interest in fashion to help brands and retailers uncover actionable insights. She currently produces in-depth reports on the fashion industry and its changing retail scene across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Southeast Asia.

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