Like many things in life, we expect that when we pay a premium for certain products or services, be it clothing, technology or hotels, we expect it to be of better quality or experience than a cheaper alternative. This is not always so. Often, it is a great marketing campaign that is the only difference between two similar product’s price and success or failure.
In terms of athletic clothing, the industry is dominated by a few of the world’s largest sporting good manufacturers such as Nike, Adidas and Puma. Companies of this size, with their many years of experience, spend a percentage of their funds on research and development, to improve their products and manufacturing processes. However, they also spend an even larger percentage on marketing – meaning that they could in theory pretty much sell one of their standard products, with a different design, and the strength of their brand name alone could be enough for the general public to believe it is a completely new product. The brand name, coupled with this “new” design, could easily be enough for the company to charge a premium price, whereas the actual product sold blank without branding could still be sold for considerably lower.
While you may be paying a large chunk of the product price for the brand name, it may also be that the brand name is known for quality clothing. Once companies have built a brand name known for its quality, it becomes ever more important that they maintain this. A nightmare scenario for them would be a product recall due to faulty products, which could seriously damage their reputation. However, a brand, and their price premium is not always a guarantee of a better quality product, especially considering the price difference. There are many manufacturers who sell simply designed products with minimal branding, and at a considerably lower price than a similar big-brand rival, but whose quality and athletic performance can be equal, if not better. Think of fast-fashion retailers such as Uniqlo, who sell minimally branded products for a fraction of a price that big sportswear brands would. A womens rain jacket, for example, could be sold for around one-third of the price at Uniqlo than a major sportswear brand, but the performance and longevity of running in varied weather conditions could be comparable.
Brands without the the reach of major sportswear brands can even produce better products at similar price points, in part due to their smaller product ranges, allowing them to focus more on making sure there core products are as high-quality as possible. Think of womens waterproof jackets from brands such as Rains, who have smaller selections, but whose focus on quality leads to exceptional products.
Overall, if you are a price conscious consumer, there is no need to always expect that cheaper products will automatically result in worse quality or performance. Athletic clothing is meant to be put under pressure, and therefore should be more robust and performance-oriented, but bear in mind this cannot always be guaranteed by the price being paid.