Social Media

Social media leaders in outdoor sports 2015

3 minute read

One year ago we took a look at how the big outdoor brands measured up in social media. We all know that the gross number of followers doesn’t tell the whole story -- a brand can have a meaningful presence and an engaged audience without the biggest following. But from a bird’s eye view, numbers say a lot about a brand’s power to capture a market’s attention and draw consumers.


We were curious to know: how has the social media landscape has shifted over the last 12 months? So we updated last year’s grid, calculating the percentage increase in followers on each of the big social networks: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+.

Our check-in spotted some interesting trends:

  • Instagram is the clear winner, with the strongest uptake across almost all brands.
  • Google+ also saw astonishing increases, though in most cases brands grew their Google+ follower base from tiny to average.
  • Weirdly, people are following brands’ Google+ pages, even when the brand itself is not supporting or managing its Google+ presence.
  • All brands also grew their Pinterest and YouTube fan base.
  • In most cases, Facebook and Twitter saw the least amount of growth.

What can we learn?

Outdoor brands are investing time and energy in visual social media channels rather than text-based ones. Instagram has become the essential social media network for the fashion industry… this extends to outdoor sports brands, all of which are actively sharing remarkable visual content.

Which brand has seen the strongest growth?

First of all, we need to eliminate brands that have seen exponential growth in Google+, simply because they skew the overall results considerably. For example, Merrell has seen a 3,191% increase in Google+ followers, and the brand doesn’t have an active page; it’s a placeholder. This is the same with Lululemon: a large increase in followers, with no presence. Columbia, on the other hand, is actively cultivating its Google+ page. The company has seen a 487,582% increase in Google+ followers. While we don’t want to undermine Colombia's success, we need to eliminate this result simply to get a realistic understanding of success across the board.

So who is got ahead this year? In terms of percentage of followers gained, we’re looking at Arc’teryx and Adidas coming in almost neck and neck. Adidas is a massive legacy brand; by comparison, Arc’teryx is niche (although very strong in the outdoor market). While its follower base is small, Arc’teryx is growing quickly in all the right ways.

And who has the most fans

In terms of pure social media followers, it’s no surprise that Nike comes out far ahead of the pack, grossing close to 50 million followers. Adidas is a distant second, with a meagre 27 million or so followers.

Where should outdoor brand focus their social efforts in 2015?

It seems that one can have very small gains with very little effort in Google+ these days. As this network is not thriving, go ahead and cultivate it, but don’t devote a huge amount of time here.

It’s no surprise that Instagram is the most powerful network for outdoor brands in 2015. While Instagram is not a strong driver of sales, it is key to building brand love in the coming year. Outdoor brands need to think about how they can leverage Instagram content on their own ecommerce site and elsewhere, turning this valuable brand amplification into content that generates direct revenue.