How to Start a Sportswear Brand

Updated: May 13

Are you thinking of starting a sportswear brand but need a bit of guidance about how to start a sportswear line and what stages you need to complete to launch successfully?

In this 8 point guide, you will find information about the different stages it takes to launch your own sportswear brand and how to make it happen successfully.

At Blue Associates Sportswear, we specialise in helping entrepreneurs start their own sportswear brand and help guide them through the various stages so that they launch successfully and gain some immediate sales traction.

8 Key Points on How to Start a Sportswear Brand

Step 1. Concept

What’s your unique idea for your sportswear brand? Make sure that you have a clear concept and a niche in this market to help target your consumer. Don’t try to replicate the big established brands as you will never compete, and it will be hard to define your unique brand identity. You don't want to start battling against a large competitor, as this will give your new business a weakness from its launch.

Once you have your idea, share it with some of your friends and family to get their opinion or do a social media poll targeting your target market to see if your idea has legs. This will allow you to get that initial market research to start getting a feel for how your brand is positioning with the general public and where your stand out and where you need to improve.

The important question, does your concept have a USP? Read why you shouldn’t try to compete with the big established sportswear brands here.

Step 2. Business Plan

Start to plan your business and work out all the potential costs involved and cash required. We provide a Start-Up Pack that includes a cash flow and Cost of Goods spreadsheet so that you can start to calculate the overall investment required.

Once you have these finalised, you can see how the cash flows and what might be required once you have launched.

Remember that your business is a living and breathing being, once your initial business plan is written up, this doesn't mean that your planning is finalised and remember to read the plan on a regular basis to see if your business is actually performing as planned.

Step 3. Branding

What will you call your brand?

Don’t think the brand name needs to say what it does on the tin. Apple for instance has no relation to computers, yet it works because the logo and brand language are as strong as the product itself. Anything that helps you differentiate from other brands gives you a competitive advantage in marketing towards your target audience and setting a good customer base.

Once you have a brand name, do some research and make sure you can trademark this. Also, see if this translates in other key languages to anything else and make sure it’s not offensive to any culture or religion.

Read our blog “How to design your logo” for more information.

Step 4. Team

Starting your own sportswear brand isn’t easy and will take a lot of effort, hours of work and dedication. You need to work out what you think you can deal with yourself and what you will need help with. If you don’t have the experience and knowledge to manage all aspects, then you will need to outsource this to experts in the field.

Whether this is somebody to help you arrange your financing, product designs or a team member who can help you with your graphics, photography, email marketing, online marketing and online marketing videos. It's these individuals who turn into the centre group, so all together you can benefit from your very own individual experience to support each other throughout your new project. In terms of your brand identity, it's significant that you are all in the same spot, so this is where a brand book comes into play.

Whatever you do, don’t bodge it and hope it sticks and make sure that everything you do is professional and executed well. Being honest with yourself and your team through team feedback is essential throughout the development stages. Cutting corners and skimping on aspects that you can’t do yourself will weaken your brand and this will show when you come to launch.

Our Start-Up Pack highlights all the stages required to launch your sportswear brand.

Step 5. Design

This is the fun bit. You need to create detailed drawings of your sportswear showing a front, back and side view with all the new product's details so that you can communicate this with the factory. You need to think about the function of the garment and the needs of the athlete when you design the product. This is engineering first and style second as it’s pointless creating good looking sportswear that won’t perform when required.

Placement, size and construction of features needs to be considered and understanding the factories capabilities is critical when designing performance sportswear. Make sure that you understand who will produce the product and the costs of specific features before you start the design process, otherwise, you may end up with a great product that’s twice as much as you anticipated.

Once the CAD design is complete, you will need to create a very accurate and detailed tech pack to guide the factory on how to produce your design.

Read about how to create Designs and Tech Packs for more information.

Step 6. Sportswear Factory Sourcing

Sourcing a suitable factory is one of the hardest tasks to complete, selecting materials is a science by itself.

There are literally thousands of factories out there and finding a suitable factory is very time-consuming. You need to find a sportswear factory that suits your brand's requirements and has the technical know-how to produce the quality that your target market is looking for. Forget trying to find a factory that supplies established brands as the good factories don’t tend to advertise and don’t promote the brands that they produce for.

Our blog post: How to find the best sportswear factory will help you understand the process and the pitfalls to avoid when sourcing your factory.

Step 7. Prototypes and production

Once you have selected your factory or supplier, you will need to produce several samples before you go into production. The essential part is that the samples will need to be critiqued and fitted on a “Fitting Model” and adjusted to improve the garment fit and final design.

You will also need to produce size sets and PP samples before bulk starts to make sure the bulk production will be produced to your standards and there are no surprises when the stock arrives.

Step 8. Marketing your sportswear brand

Getting all the potential customers to see your brand is paramount to your new business. You'll need multiple things to get your marketing mix right; your website, SEO (search engine optimization), social media profiles, social media marketing, email campaigns and Google Ads just to name a few. You need to connect with your potential customers and tell them your brand's story, why you started the company and what is special about your products, from the intricate pattern design to the subtleties of your zippers, materials, etc. Without sufficient digital marketing, you will struggle to get your brand noticed and therefore sales won’t happen. One thing to get right is picking the correct marketing channels and marketing strategies to ensure that your brand gets seen by the correct people that will be interested in your small business. The more relevant eyes that see your product or service, the more sales you should therefore generate.

Our sportswear marketing guide will help you create an effective marketing plan and help you understand the different aspects to consider when launching your product to market.

The last step is simple, enjoy the ride. It’s not easy and will take a huge amount of dedication and effort, but if you follow the steps and complete them competently, then you should have the foundations for a successful launch. Although this can be hard work, it should be exciting and enjoyable and once you launch, there is nothing better than knowing people share your vision and start ordering your brand.