Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Things We Love

When you get dressed for your run and look in the mirror, what do you see? A wall of one note only gear, a perfectly matched outfit down to your socks or a mish-mash of brands and colors? 

In Kathrine Switzer's book Marathon Woman, she often describes her running apparel because she was determined to look like a woman while she was running, partly to dash the preconceptions about women runners in the '60's and '70's (she was just as much a woman as she was a runner) but also because there just weren't many options for running clothes at that time, especially for women. For her first cross country practice at Syracuse University, she wore a pair of slacks and a long sleeve blouse. Fast forward a few decades and the National Sporting Goods Association reported that in 2009 running shoe sales were greater than $2.36 billion and running apparel purchases totalled $883 million (actually, a 3% decrease from '08). While it's possible to run in just about anything, collectively, we spend a lot of money on our gear.
My story: I was stuck on Asics shoes until I bought my current pair of Brooks. I thought Asics was the be all and end all of running shoes because they made my feet feel great and for at least 3 years all I would even think about buying was the 2100 series.  I had horrible experiences with Nike shoes but the only style of running shorts I have are the Nike Tempo Track shorts. My drawers are filled with C9 gear. You know, the stuff from Target? Yep. Sports bras, tops and capris. Then I have some random tops from Asics and Saucony and of course too many race tees to fit in one drawer. I wear a cap whenever I run: Nike, Jack Rabbit, Asics, Adidas. I can't find socks that I really love. The last pairs I bought are Adidas and so far they're working well but I also have Asics and C9 that are snug but not too snug.

I know runners who are awesome at matching. They can match every piece of their clothing to their shoes, down to the headband. Other runners fall in love with a brand for one reason or another and wear it almost exclusively. Or, they're like me and just wear what's comfortable, was on sale at the time and fits. Or what is appropriate for the day's weather conditions.

The brands though, they want our attention. They want us to spend all our running gear money on them. They need market share and higher sales numbers each year. Many athletic apparel companies start with the most admirable intentions, but they are businesses and have to watch the bottom line. They sponsor races and fun runs; spend time, effort and money on flashy advertisements and publicity. You may have read about Under Armour's most recent attempt to attract the female athlete by coming out with a new line of performance apparel that is more feminine and by appealing to us not only through television and print ads but also online through a dedicated Facebook page and they created several 60 second spots targeting women illustrating the strength and determination of female athletes. (I recently bought an UA long sleeve top for running and love it).

These companies find a hook and do their best to reel us in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In the end, I think for runners it all comes down to comfort and functionality. And some of us love certain brands so much we become defacto brand ambassadors professing our love to others.

Why do you choose the gear and brands you use? How does one company stand out above another for you? What would make you switch from a brand you've used loyally? Is there anything you swear by and could never see yourself training without? And what about the recession: has it affected your brand loyalty?
today's workout -
10.25miles bike
3x12 leg press
3x10 squats
3x10 weighted side bends


Jenn said...

I have a slight vanity card and I'll admit I want my running clothes to look decent as well as feel good because if I look good, I run faster-ha! That being said, it's not all about money. I wear C9 thermal shirts from Target in the winter and they work great! I love Brooks-I swear by my Brooks Launch shoes and my Brooks running jacket in a must in the winter. My first marathon I wore Asics shorts, Mizuno shoes, a Sugoi shirt, Underarmour Visor, Asics arm warmers and a Nike Sportsbra! I may not have been the matching queen but I was super comfortable!! Comfort and Functionality is KEY!

JLT said...

i am a walking NIKE ad. I don't really know how i got hooked on them but I too try to either match OR look like a nut. :) you know, one or the other... nike does have some good sales though..

Molly said...

It's funny, I unintentionally have a lot of Nike gear, aside from my shoes (Brooks). I usually pick something that is on sale, aside from my socks, which I found through trial and error (Drymax).

Zaneta said...

Im with JLT... walking NIKE billboard!! lol... everything from watch, bra, shorts, shoes, socks, tops, pants, and hat! I dont know why I like them so much... I just do lol... Im starting to branch out a little though ;)

Silly Girl Running said...

I'm a NIKE girl. This brand just understands what a tall girl needs. Adidas and Brooks just make me run around with my tummy showing. And, ofcourse, runningskirts.com - another favorite of mine! :)