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Why fashion is integral to the Olympic Games

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

23 Jul 2021

Fashion

Image: Ralph Lauren Tokyo Olympics

Fashion plays an integral role in the Tokyo Olympics, with the games officially opening today.

The pride of national uniforms, especially from countries with globally recognisable brands and designers, are part and parcel of the competition and representation.

Armani, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Skims, Adidas and Nike are just some of the brands that will be pulling out all stops to dress athletes and turn the games into a veritable runway. They join companies including H&M, Levi’s, Louboutin, Stella McCartney, Halston and Valentino who have all had a spell at designing their country’s team uniforms.

Dressing Olympians is both a financial and marketing opportunity for fashion brands, generating global publicity and brand recognition for years to come. Canadian outfitter Roots reportedly sold 25,000 berets after dressing America’s sporting heroes in its pullovers and hats in 2002.

Deals to dress teams, from swimming and athletics to boxing, fencing, skiing and tennis, are complex contracts and often require a royalty to be paid to the Olympic Committee, if its infamous logo is visible in the design. Ralph Lauren will reportedly pay a 10 percent royalty to the Committee this year for its branded merchandise.

Japan summer climate not suited to the Olympics

Dressing athletes in Tokyo’s sweltering heat is not easy. Ralph Lauren for team America designed a patented cooling jacket featuring a self-regulating temperature control device in the garment. Japan’s weather bureau this week issued multiple heat-stroke warnings, with organisers taking to mist-spraying stations and offering cooling vests to referees. Japan’s hot weather climate conditions are not particularly well-suited to outdoor events and the heat adds another complication to an already turbulent Olympics so badly impacted by the pandemic.

Marketing without audiences

Many fashion brands and advertisers had already committed to a marketing presence during the Olympics before the pandemic ensued. But without a physical audience stadiums will be empty and brands have been forced to embrace digital content strategies to replace any physical ads. Advertising companies are counting on this year’s games to remain one of most-watched sporting events in the world, with millions expected to tune in online and via television.

Let the fashion games begin!

Image: Ralph Lauren Tokyo Olympics