Calia Evolution: Dick's Makes Noise With First-Ever Grammys Ad

Dick’s Sporting Goods is launching “There’s beauty in the burn,” an ad campaign to support the new Inspire collection from its Calia private label brand. Ads are running on the Grammys, a first for the company.

The effort salutes the grit and hard work women put into workouts and shows off the line’s ability to move from the gym or yoga studio to the coffee shop.

Calia first launched in 2015 with a splashy partnership with Carrie Underwood, who is no longer associated with the brand. Since then, the Pittsburgh-based retailer has turned Calia into the chain’s second-best-selling women’s brand, after Nike, and the second-best-selling private label brand, after DSG.

Dick’s hopes this campaign will create Calia’s next big moment, says Emily Silver, Dick’s CMO. “We’ve been thrilled with Calia’s growth over the past few years, which is why you see us continuing to invest in the brand and expand our offerings,” she tells Marketing Daily via email.

She says that while women have become fans of Calia for style, “we are increasing the brand’s performance credentials.”

That includes the introduction of Lycra Adaptiv, a fabric technology new to the marketplace that adds a subtle compression. The clothing also has wicking and odor control features and built-in sun protection.

While the ads, set to Big Boss Vette's “Pretty Girls Walk,” focus on hard-core workouts, the collection flexes versatility beyond the gym. Like competitor Lululemon, the hope is that the clothes are tough enough for workouts but comfy enough for the rest of the day, too, offering leggings, shorts, bodysuits, dresses, tanks and sports bras.

“Calia wants to reach women who prioritize fitness and are looking for performance wear that doesn’t sacrifice fashion for function,” Silver says. “The Calia athlete wants a product that can move with her from her workouts to other everyday movements.”

Öpinionated, a Portland, Oregon-based agency, created the 30-second spot, the agency’s first work for the brand. Calia, which has used pop-ups in the past to build awareness, will also boost visibility with in-store fitness events.

Ads are running on social media and streaming services, including Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon.

While Dick’s has been deepening its investment in private-label brands -- as have many other retailers -- some observers question how effective the strategy is.

“We do not believe Dick’s efforts to increase its private-label business will improve its competitive position,” writes David Swartz, an analyst who follows the retail sector for Morningstar. With better profit margins than some third-party merchandise, “increased private-label sales may help profitability,” he says. “They may not drive store traffic.”

In recent years, Dick’s has seen impressive sales gains, partly due to innovation in athletic apparel and footwear and the growth of activewear in everyday fashion.

“The firm has successfully doubled down on stronger categories like athletic footwear, athleisure, and team sports,” he says. But as consumers become more familiar with ecommerce channels and specialty retailers, including Lululemon and Foot Locker, he expects Dick’s sales growth to cool.

“Dick’s lacks an edge. We believe a slowdown is likely, as sporting goods retail is vulnerable to external competition,” Swartz says. “We view the growth of direct-to-consumer sales by its vendors as a serious competitive threat that Dick’s cannot counter.”

Others are more encouraged by Dick’s prospects. In a new report on the sporting goods retail sector, Wedbush notes solid sales through the end of 2023, with an improving outlook for the year ahead. “We believe that the broader sporting goods industry should grow in the second half of this year as macro-related pressures ease,” writes Seth Basham, an analyst who covers the category for Wedbush.

He projects sales growth in the low-single digits for the full year. “The industry has re-baselined due to a fundamental shift in consumer behavior with a larger emphasis on health and wellness, participation in outdoor activities and a higher interest in athletic lifestyle products coinciding with the structural change in working from home.”

Basham gives Dick’s a neutral rating, noting that it appears to be gaining in market share. And he sees “potential for outperformance,” driven by the retailer's expansion of its large-format House of Sport locations.

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