A growing interest from consumers in pursuing more active lifestyles, along with health and fitness goals, has led to a demand for sports apparel, including athleisure wear. Sports culture has also influenced fashion trends and styles, which has helped expand the market. For example, brands like Nike and Adidas have been leveraging sports culture and partnerships for years to scale their reach beyond just sportswear and into mainstream fashion.
But there was one recent sports and fashion partnership that many did not see coming. Kim Kardashian-owned clothing brand Skims recently announced its partnership with the NBA, WNBA and USA Basketball to be the official underwear for the leagues.
What makes this partnership brilliant? Let’s take a closer look at Skims’ multi-phase approach behind the impactful partnership, and what marketers can learn about reshaping brand positioning.
A powerful kickoff
The partnerships with the basketball leagues gave Skims, a brand primarily known for being a women’s shapewear and loungewear company, an entry point into the lucrative sports apparel market. For the basketball leagues, it was a chance to project a more modern and inclusive image by partnering with a high-profile brand that has a young, diverse consumer group.
For all parties, this partnership bridges gaps between two seemingly disparate audiences and creates opportunities to scale the brands into new markets and demographics. It’s also a great example of authentic brand partnerships by brands that recognize overlapping interests and the power of diversification.
The week before the NBA partnership was announced, Skims launched its new men’s line. But the expansion into menswear isn’t what made headlines that week; it was the launch campaign featuring some of the most recognizable faces across the sports industry: soccer star Neymar Jr, 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, and NBA player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
By partnering with these athletes, Skims established its men’s line as functional fashion. It’s not simply selling underwear—it’s marketing a lifestyle.