We’ve Noticed that Tennis is an Untapped Activewear Goldmine.

The Australian Open, tennis’ first Grand Slam event of the year, is in full swing, and Djokovic, after an outstanding 2015, and a decent 2016, has kicked off his 2017 in stunning fashion: A second round defeat to a player ranked outside of the top 100. An early exit certainly wasn’t what Mr. Djokovic — nor the bookies — expected. But he might take heart in knowing there are some would-be players who haven’t even made it onto the court at all.

We recently stumbled across the low-key NikeCourt and Roger Federer collaboration in Monocle’s (outstanding) September 2016 issue, and with the AO buzzing along, we couldn’t help but wonder why, among the hoard of activewear and new premium sportswear and training brands, exactly zero of them have tackled tennis.

The sport would appear to be low hanging fruit for the activewear category. Off the court, or on it, specializing in tennis seems like a ripe opportunity for differentiation. That’s particularly true when considering Lululemon’s heavy influence on the activewear market proper. There’s no mistaking it; the yogawear giant has set the general tone since first bursting onto the scene in 1998. In the nineteen years since, the market has been powered by the women’s side, and even now the activewear point of reference continues to hover within the limits of the yoga and yoga-related lifestyle spectrum.

A quick look around is all it takes to understand the effects of this: Countless yoga pants brands populate the category, with little distinction between them. But the last six years has helped to loosen the yoga-pants grip, as it were, with some fine new activewear additions emerging in the running (Tracksmith; Iffley Road; Soar), training (Ten Thousand; Castore), and cycling (Rapha; Kirschner; Queen of the Mountains; MAAP) markets. They’ve helped to shake things up a bit by offering strong, new perspectives — and in tennis, there’s no question that there’s room for another sporty participant.

Consider this:

Tennis is an untapped, upmarket category (tailor-made for modern luxury).
The activewear market is fundamentally an upmarket one, and the activities it focuses on — running, training, yoga, fitness — all point to the wellness lifestyle that’s popular among the educated, health-conscious global demographic. So why has tennis, which is certainly an upmarket sport (don’t forget, Wimbledon still restricts players to wearing all white) gone untouched? This is practically turn-key.

Big, global, prestigious events to plug into.
The US Open, The Australian Open, The French Open, and Wimbledon. The Grand Slam circuit is huge. It’s international. It’s exciting. And it’s still popular. And unlike the running and the cycling worlds, tennis’ stars are well known — Federer; Nadal; Serena; Djokovic; Sharapova. For the smart tennis activewear brand, there’s an easy opportunity to leverage consumers’ excitement around these strengths of the tennis world. Frankly, it’s there for the taking.

Perfect sports-driven alternative to running, training, and cycling.
Because not everyone is a cyclist, a gym rat, a marathoner. Tennis is something of a more refined, sporting option. It also boasts an aesthetic that works on the court, and off it, with ease. Federer’s NikeCourt collaboration proves the off-court argument especially well.

We’ve written previously about remaking Fila, a brand with a golden history stemming back the 1970s, into a premium activewear tennis brand along the lines of Tracksmith and Rapha. But there’s something to be said about building a brand up from scratch in today’s modern standards by an independent founder (or team) with a passion for the sport. Activewear founders, if you’re reading. You’d be wise to take advantage of this.

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  • There are quite a few upscale boutique brands making inroads in the luxury tennis market. For men, take a look at UOMO Sport (see pic below). Upscale activewear brands for women include: Yaffa Activewear and L’Etoile. There are also a handful of what I call street brands testing the courts with their own collections. Tennis isn’t a neglected activewear category but to get exposure at the very top (like on Roger above) you need VERY big bucks for multi year contracts.