“So all these years you never did yoga but just walked around carrying the mat?”

Like a lot of people I try to get to the gym or go for a bike ride as often as possible.  I’ve been doing this off and on (mostly off) for most of my adult life.  Lots of gyms. Lots of bike rides.  Lots of athletic apparel observation opportunities.

Over the years I can’t help but notice the blurring of what I see people (primarily women) wearing.  What’s worn in the gym is frequently what I see outside the gym.  Of course there’s no epiphany here as this is more commonly referred to as a  yoga pants phenomena.  Being the rather dense when it comes to fashion and  human observation I first thought all these people were simply “coming from the gym”.  But alas I was wrong!

An article in yesterday’s New York Times style section provided an illuminating view into the sport fashion trend via the undisputed gym apparel supplier, Nike.

Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times put it much more eloquently than I ever could:

While Nike may not overtly identify itself as a fashion brand, and while traditional runway names may not see it as a competitor, to consumers considering what piece of clothing to buy, it increasingly seems like one and the same.

Now what does all this have to do with earned media?

Well Nike, along with a rather long list of athletic and outdoor apparel brands, are beginning to court the fashion community, albeit from somewhat oblique angles.  In many ways designers are becoming part of the “style” endorsement community.  While Michael Jordan might goose the basketball message for Nike (as part of the “athlete” endorsement community), designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Stella McCartney and Rick Owens are doing the same for Nike’s chief rival, Adidas.

Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and other athletic apparel brands have always tracked and measured the media visibility of their athlete endorsements.  How much media exposure did Tiger Woods generate this month (actually, Tiger Woods’ earned media rating is so far off its 4-year rating high of 83 that Nike has made no secret of back-filling their star professional golfer’s media position with the likes Roy McIlroy and others).

A few years ago it would be hard to imagine Nike searching for any endorser outside professional sports.  But that’s exactly what changing consumer behavior has led Nike and other athletic brands to pursue.

According to a NPD report in the New York Times, this trend is being driving by the relaxation of strict professional and social dress codes; changing consumer values, which prioritize comfort, achievement and sustainability over aesthetics alone; and the awakening of the sports world to the power of style.

Over at mediaQuant we’re ready to catch and quantify the media influence of this new found love for style and fashion.  Both our fashion and luxury brand sector coverage is extensive and includes top designers and brands.

So Nike becomes more stylish while Burberry becomes more sporty.  The media impact is unfolding across three of our sector areas: Athletic and Outdoor Apparel Brands, Fashion Brands and Luxury Brands.

For now I’ll leave you with this earned media idea:  Adidas Shoes by Stella McCartney.