By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
February 15, 2013
After her breakout run in the Australian Open, including a quarterfinal win over Serena Williams, American Sloane Stephens is sitting pretty in 2013—and so is her clothing and shoe sponsor, Under Armour. But in the retail trenches of the 15 billion dollar women’s fitness apparel market, Under Armour and peers like Williams’ Nike are being challenged by an upstart that doesn’t even have a proper tennis line, let alone a WTA spokeswoman: Vancouver-based lululemon athletica.
While Stephens is the current darling of American tennis, lululemon has captured the hearts and wallets of fashionable recreational players across the country.
While neither UA nor lulu actually manufactures a tennis-specific collection, both stand for trendy clothing AND trendy growth stocks. UA currently trades at about 50 dollars on the New York Stock Exchange, while lululemon shares go for 67 dollars each on the NASDAQ.
Unlike Under Armour’s relationship with Stephens, lululemon eschews celebrity endorsements in favor of turning fitness instructors into brand ambassadors. Whether lululemon will start to invest in tennis “for real” is still uncertain, but one thing is clear: the fashionable brand is forcing Under Armour and Nike to put more fashion into their products, and to better leverage their tennis relationships.