Why you’ll find Olympic gear at Lululemon instead of Hudson’s Bay

Published 2021-10-26 13:35

Lululemon won the contract starting with the 2022 Beijing Games


Goodbye Hudson’s Bay, hello Lululemon!

After 16 years of working with the Canadian Olympic team as the official clothing supplier, Hudson’s Bay is out.

On Sept. 23, Lululemon announced it was the new official Olympic clothing supplier for Team Canada and launched part of its Olympic-themed clothing and accessory line.

Lululemon is an athletic apparel company based in Vancouver, B.C.

It has a contract for the next four Games, up to the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games.

Today, the company unveiled the rest of the new collection, including what the athletes will be wearing for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

These sponsorships cost a lot of money for companies like Lululemon, but it also means the brand will be showcased on the world stage, including what people like and dislike about it.

The athletes, such as Canadian ice dancers Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles, will wear Lululemon clothes for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as on the podiums and in interviews with the media. They don’t wear the uniform for competitions. (Image credit: Lululemon)

How sponsorships work

Hudson’s Bay’s contract was up after the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and this opened the door for Lululemon.

Lululemon is paying the Canadian Olympic Committee — probably millions of dollars, although they didn’t specify the details of the contract — so it can be the only company to have the team’s logo on its clothes.

I spoke to Jolan Storch, the founder and CEO of BOLD. Counsel, a company that provides advice to sports, entertainment organizations and sponsors.

She said this is an opportunity for Lululemon to associate itself with the Olympics brand, which is widely recognized and respected around the world.

“Lululemon is getting the right to now put their clothes on the athletes when they’re at Games,” Storch said.

Jolan Storch, who is based in Calgary, is a lawyer with experience in sports marketing. She worked with Hudson’s Bay to secure its contract with the Canadian Olympic Committee. (Image submitted by Jolan Storch)

It costs a lot, but it’s all part of their marketing plan, says Storch.

“If we’re watching the Canadian Olympic team for the next games in Beijing and we think, oh my gosh, they look so good at the opening ceremonies, I want that coat, too,” Storch said, which will make people want to buy the clothes.

Cha-ching! Next thing you know, people are spending money on Olympic apparel.

Justin Kripps, who won gold in bobsleigh at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, models the outfit for the opening ceremony. (Image credit: Lululemon)

Why Lululemon wanted the contract

“As a Canadian company, we truly believe that we can inspire, unite and transform the world through sport,” said Michelle Davies, vice president of global sports marketing and partnerships for Lululemon.

“We have always stood for real relationships with athletes, with our trainers, yoga teachers in our communities. So, to get to powerfully partner with [Team Canada] in an even greater way  just feels so right.”

Storch said while The Bay did a great job, she also highlighted some of the things people like about Lululemon.

“It’s all well made,” she said. “They back all of their products. You feel confident when you buy something it’s going to suit for its purpose. And if it lets you down for some reason, the customer care is excellent.”

A woman shows the back of a denim jacket with lettering that looks like graffiti on it

Remember this jean jacket from The Bay? Back in April, some were calling Team Canada’s designs for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics a fashion disaster while others said they were totally cool. (Image credit: Olympics.ca)

Accessibility for athletes and average Canadians

The Lululemon partnership includes providing clothes for Canada’s Paralympians.

Davies said accessibility and inclusion is top of mind in the design process.

“Some of our Paralympic athletes who are in a wheelchair gave really incredible feedback around the zippers to have the ability to unzip from the bottom,” she said.

“Then it’s more comfortable when you’re seated.”

Liam Hickey competes at both the summer and winter Paralympic Games, in wheelchair basketball and sledge hockey. Lululemon says Paralympic athletes were part of the clothing design process. (Image credit: Lululemon)

But the items should also be made accessible in terms of cost, said Storch, like The Bay did when it designed its popular red mittens in 2010.

The mitts were only $10 a pair, and a portion of the sales went back to athletes.

A man dressed up in a Canada gear has a hand out with a red mitten with a white maple leaf showing

At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it seemed like everyone was wearing the red mittens from The Bay. (Image credit: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)

“That raised a ton of money for sport and was also an affordable price point. Most Canadians could buy it to give to someone for maybe [their] Christmas stockings,” Storch said.

As for Lululemon, one of their least expensive items is a small bag, called the Future Legacy Bag, of which 10 per cent of sales are going to “the next generation of Canadian athletes,” according to Lululemon.

But the bag is $38.

A small red pouch and a pair of red socks

The Future Legacy Bag, for $38 and these socks, for $28, are among the least expensive items in Lululemon’s Olympic collection. (Image credit: Lululemon)

Eye on sustainability

Storch also said that when the Olympics are underway, countries and their affiliations are under a microscope, and companies like Lululemon can expect questions to come up that examine how they do business.

“The new focus in clothing and apparel is sustainability,” she said, which includes recycling material and making clothes in ways that reduce water use.

Davies said the legacy bag is made from recycled materials and that the company is working with a new leather that is made out of the mycelium from mushrooms, but that it wasn’t part of the Olympic collection.

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About the Contributor

Abigail Dove
Abigail Dove
CBC Kids News Contributor
Abigail Dove, a Grade 12 student, loves all things sports. She’s a competitive golfer and hockey player who aspires to be a sports broadcaster. Abigail has written for Sports Illustrated Kids, done some online reporting for Golf Canada and was the rinkside reporter for the Toronto Maple Leafs "Next Generation" games.

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