Why Shoe Companies Are Jumping on the Body-Positivity Bandwagon

It’s been a long time coming, but Western culture is finally taking a more liberated approach to self-image. Dubbed The Body Positive Movement, this feminist-led crusade aims to encourage people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes toward their bodies, with the goal of achieving overall wellness. And along the way, it has created a firestorm by contradicting the traditional fitness narrative.

The tenets of The Body Positive movement have been generally well-received across the fashion industry, and this week, Reebok announced that it had tapped supermodel Gigi Hadid to be part of its “Be More Human” campaign.

Reebok said Hadid will participate in its “#PerfectNever” self-betterment movement — its plea to women worldwide to “celebrate the beauty of imperfection.”

Gigi is setting the standards of modern style across the world; her ability to fuse fashion and fitness together inspires people globally. The fashion icon constantly pushes the boundaries by not being afraid to take risks and be different,” Corinna Werkle, GM of the training business unit at Reebok, said Tuesday. “Working with Reebok, Gigi will empower women by challenging them to express themselves to the fullest through bold, fearless style and to be confident enough to embrace their uniqueness.”

Indeed, it’s wise for shoe companies — which sell products aimed at promoting fitness — to align themselves with messaging that empowers a fitness-focused consumer. But reaching an even larger potential customer base — comprised of individuals who want to exercise and be healthy, but may not necessarily identify as traditional fitness enthusiasts — is becoming increasingly important.

The Body Positivity Movement goes beyond just ‘fitness’ in the traditional sense of ‘gym-bodies,’ ” B. Riley & Co. LLC analyst Jeff Van Sinderen explained. “For ladies, I think body positivity extends to feeling comfortable and positive about their bodies even if they are larger size. Great footwear companies can appeal to a broad range of demographics by associating with [the movement].”

Not to mention, millennials — marketers’ most sought-after cohort — are leading the body-positivity trend, noted Matt Powell, a sports-industry analyst with The NPD Group.

Millennials are very concerned about social issues like body positivity,” Powell said. “Brands that align with that thinking will benefit with the most important athletic shoes demographic.”

With today’s consumer demonstrating an increased awareness of corporate social responsibility, Van Sinderen said there are further advantages for firms that can show a sensitivity to uplifting messaging similar to that of the body-positivity campaign.

“A broad range of consumers appreciate companies that are socially responsible and will go out of their way to do business with those companies,” Van Sinderen explained. “This is especially true when it comes to companies that support progressive causes. For example, a company that makes/sells active footwear may garner even more social responsibility ‘cred’ by going beyond traditional fitness to support those that aspire to be ‘body positive’ no matter what size/shape they are.”

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