Sportswear isn’t just for athletes. It’s for everyone who likes clothing that allows them to be active and comfortable.

So, who makes up the target market for sportswear? What attracts them to athletic apparel?

Is it only for the comfort that it provides? Or is it to make a fashion statement? Or is it, perhaps, a lifestyle choice?

The reality is that the target market for sportswear extends far beyond professional and amateur athletes. In fact, there are a variety of different groups of people who purchase athletic apparel and accessories.

In this article, we will explore the target market for sportswear and segment it based on the main reasons that drive their purchase decisions.

Types of Sportswear

Sportswear is a part of the market for sports apparel focused on clothes and other objects that people wear on their bodies.

To better understand the target market for sportswear and what motivates them to buy a certain type of athletic apparel or brand of sportswear over another, we should first review some of the products which together constitute sportswear or athletic apparel.

The more common types of sportswear include:

  1. T-shirts
  2. Shorts
  3. Sweatpants
  4. Hats
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Athletic shoes
  7. Swimsuits
  8. Skisuits
  9. Yoga pants
  10. Riding boots

As you can imagine the list can go on and on. If you’d like a more complete list, please see the links in the references.

The important point is that when it comes to truly understanding the needs of your target market for sportswear, your focus should not be just on what they purchase. It is equally important to understand why they purchase a specific product and how they settle on one brand over another.

Remember that regardless of the product being purchased the “Why” falls into 4 distinct categories which we cover in the next section.

And it is the “Why” that will drive the messaging and communications of your marketing campaigns that will attract customers to your brand or your store.

The Target Market for Sportswear: Why do they buy?

So why do people buy sportswear or athletic apparel?

Here are some of the top reasons:

  1. Comfort
  2. Functionality
  3. Fashion
  4. Lifestyle

Let’s look at each of these in further detail.

1. Comfort

Athletic apparel is designed to be comfortable, as comfort is often essential to be able to reach peak performance. Comfort in athletic apparel goes beyond just the feel of the fabric. It also includes factors such as:

  • The fit of the garment
  • The way the garment moves with the body
  • How well the garment breathes
  • How moisture is wicked away from the skin
  • How the garment interacts with the surroundings (air or water)

Comfortable fabric is usually lightweight and breathable to allow the body to naturally regulate its temperature.

Athletic apparel is also designed to move with the body and not restrict movement in any way.

This is why many people who are not athletes still purchase and wear athletic apparel or sportswear as it is simply more comfortable than other types of clothing.

2. Functionality

Many people purchase athletic apparel for its functionality. Athletic apparel is designed to help the wearer perform better and more efficiently during physical activity.

For example, a good pair of running shoes will provide cushioning and support to reduce the impact on the feet and legs while running. In fact, comfort and functionality are some of the main reasons behind shoe selection.

Similarly, swimsuits are designed to reduce drag and resistance to help swimmers move through the water more quickly. In fact, functionality is often a big factor in the purchase of swimwear for those who do this sport seriously.

While comfort is certainly important, the functionality of athletic apparel is what sets it apart from other types of clothing.

3. Fashion

Athletic apparel can be stylish. And so wearing athletic clothing during non-athletic occasions has become a popular fashion choice in recent years. Celebrities and everyday people alike are often seen wearing yoga pants, leggings, and sneakers as part of their everyday attire.

Also, with more casual clothing choices becoming acceptable in the workplace, people are looking to athletic apparel to provide comfort and style for the office.

Athletic brands such as Nike, Puma, Oakleys, and Under Armour have also become fashion icons in addition to being sports brands. This is due in part to the popularity of athleisure – a trend of wearing athletic clothing during non-athletic activities.

Many brands have capitalized on the athleisure trend by creating stylish athletic apparel that can be worn both during and after a workout or simply as part of a casual outfit.

And so, making a fashion statement is an important reason why many people purchase athletic apparel.

4. Lifestyle

For many people, athletic apparel is more than just a fashion choice or something to wear while working out. It is a lifestyle choice.

This segment of the target market for sportswear lives and breathes an active lifestyle. They are often involved in multiple sports and activities. And they choose their clothes to reflect their commitment to a healthy way of living.

For other people in this segment, their love of a particular sport or a team is a part of their identity. They are what they wear and their clothes need to reflect their passion for their sport and for their favorite team.

Many brands have built their entire marketing campaigns around this idea of “lifestyle” by using professional athletes and everyday people who live an active lifestyle as their models and ambassadors.

And so, for many people, the purchase of athletic apparel is about more than just the clothes themselves. It’s about supporting a particular brand or lifestyle.


The target market for sportswear is broad and includes everyone – boys, girls, men, women, young and the elderly. There is always some sportswear that has value for someone.

This makes it harder to truly understand and segment this market. On the one hand, the market can be segmented based on the type of sportswear or athletic apparel being purchased – shoes, hats, sunglasses, swimsuits, yoga pants, etc.

On the other hand, with hundreds of product options available in each category, to understand the market we need to study what motivates people to purchase a particular make or brand of sportswear product over another.

As we have seen, there are different reasons why people purchase sportswear or athletic apparel. The most important ones of these are Comfort, Functionality, Fashion and Lifestyle.

Understanding the “Why” is essential to understanding your target market for sportswear and creating marketing campaigns that resonate with your target audience and drive sales.