The most critical concept to understand when attempting to capture the fleeting attention of your young, wild, and free 20-somethings customer is this – their attention spans aren’t exactly what you’d call…enduring.

Patience, though a virtue, doesn’t define your millennial audience. They’re looking for brands that entertain, understand, empathize, or help them. Building authentic, intriguing, and truthful connections can help to satisfy that perspective.

Recent stats have shown that Generation Y and Z millennials are adopting a passion for health, fitness, and well-being more than any previous generation. That means a raise in the demand of athletic wear and training gear can accordingly be expected.

Athletic apparel retailers, sporting goods manufacturers, and active wear companies can capitalize on this in a way no marketer in any other industry quite can. Being active and physically fit correlates directly with one’s sense of self-betterment. Developing a marketing strategy that speaks to this tremendously intimate human desire is the challenge you face.

But how you do that differs based on your brand, product, or sales objectives. Let’s consider the lifestyle of your on-the-go millennial target audience, for a moment.

Who they are

  • 18-29 active males and females;
  • live at home with parents, are away at college, or recently getting their careers underway and living alone or with a roommate;
  • typically living in urban areas;
  • in-flux, busy, digitally-captivated

What they value

  • Time, family and happiness;
  • Also friends, money, career, health and wellness

Where they frequent

  • Trendy shops, eateries, social scenes including bars and clubs, malls, and the gym

When they’re active

  • Typically before or after work hours (i.e. 6am-9am or 5pm-10pm), but on the weekends, this varies

Why they need you

  • You can help them achieve; you can help them grow;
  • you can help them better their lives and accomplish their goals

Now, the only question that remains is “how?”

All content, branding, and messaging should all answer the above “Why they need you” point.

Find a unique way to acknowledge that one defining moment within their given sport. Capture the emotion your audience will feel on the cusp of success or perhaps the climax where everything hangs in the balance.

Showcase obstacles that may be hindering them, then offer an understanding of those challenges. End strong by offering a steadfast solution enabled by your brand.

Identify what clicks with your millennial target audience in terms of store layout, design, lighting, décor – ensuring this look and feel is also echoed across your online digital marketing channels.

Consider a few leading sport merchandise brands that have found a unique way to connect with their target audience to drive brand awareness, customer engagement, and loyalty in this way:

DICK’s Sporting Goods has recently been pumping out some incredibly emotionally-riveting TV spots. Each seems to strike exactly the right chord with its audience. DICK’s “Every Pitch” campaign, for example, relates perfectly to the in-game atmosphere experienced by a very specific segment – high school, college, or amateur baseball players – and takes an “ethnographic,” or slice-of-live cutout of that experience in a way we’ve never seen before. DICK’s “Who Will You Be?” campaign encourages the consumer to imagine what they want to be, and then go achieve it, propelled by DICK’s brand.

Under Armour has developed a particularly flashy brand image, enriched with bold colors, and a captivating brick-and-mortar experience that resonates with its audience.


Image courtesy of

The brand logo is seen throughout the store, as well as captivating imagery, multimedia entertainment screens, and the perfect amount of lighting to set the mood. Under Armour pushes the boundaries of boldness – those who wear these clothes are warriors, prepared to fight, to earn victory and protect their home field. That’s all evident through this brand experience.

Nike understands who its customer is, and how to connect with him. In its “Find Your Greatness: The Jogger” spot, for example, it flips the script on what constitutes greatness. In turn, Nike just effectively earned thousands of new customers who may have previously felt as though the brand wasn’t one that spoke to them on such an intimate level.

Additionally, Nike’s connected with millions of consumers through its mobile app, allowing for users to track every aspect of their workouts, health, and nutrition.


Foot Locker typically does three things particularly well within its ads: capitalizes on the effective use of celebrity (using well-known athletes like Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry and James Harden), garners good brand recognition, and takes on the right tone using a light sense of humor that resonates with its audience of 18-29 year-old male athletes. One of my favorite spots does all three in a memorable way.

Majestic Athletic has fully optimized its social channels including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and its blog to help connect with its unique customer base of avid sports fans seeking player jerseys and team-branded apparel. Showing a complete understanding of its capabilities of Twitter, Majestic often makes posts that kill a few birds with one stone: brand (name and logo) recognition, promotional sale, strong CTA (“shop now button”), and use of imagery.


YouTube videos capture the essence of the brand by providing analysis of MLB players, workout tips, as well as in-person customer interviews to support its “Keep Your Cool” campaign. On the surface, Majestic Athletic is a retail provider of authentic team apparel. However, it’s effectively used social media as a brand evolution tool, producing helpful YouTube videos, interesting imagery, and entertaining, soft-sell content all to serve as an extension of its position in the marketplace – now owning the spot as the trusted industry expert in everything MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL, and college apparel.

Rawlings is an interesting brand to consider because its customer base is so niche – baseball players who seek the highest quality in gear, specifically gloves, helmets, bats and baseballs. Rawlings most essential marketing comes from professional endorsements and social media since it doesn’t traditionally have its own brick-and-mortar stores to drive consumers toward. It relies heavily on a strong social media presence – amassing more than 43k followers – to generate organic customer relationships with its audience.


Engagement rates are high – not a surprise given the kinds of content being tweeted about (you can see a native, non-promotional post that seeks to congratulate a college team in the image above).

Keep in mind the most successful method for distribution of marketing content is via digital means. Recent stats show an enormous explosion of mobile health apps. The following should be integral parts of your marketing strategy going forward:

  • Using your mobile app to enable everything from e-commerce to information discovery including store hours and locations
  • SMS marketing communications tailored to customer preferences
  • In-store push notifications based on geolocation capabilities
  • Multimedia in-store kiosks enabling an intrinsic user experience, equipped with information, entertainment, and product information

Adopting a strategy that captures the emotional ride your customers face, and shows them how you can propel them forward, will ultimately drive your brand value…and help to hit it outta’ the park, get a slam dunk, crossing the finish line in first place.

This post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of my place of employment and captures my own insights only.