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May 13, 2016

We The North: Basketball Fever Sweeps Across Canada

Matthew Teeple, Director ;

Apparel , Sports

Have you sent a text today? Of course! Chances are you’ve sent more texts than you have received calls. However, looking back to the last time the Toronto Raptors were in the second round of the NBA playoffs in 2001, texting wasn’t necessarily a viable form of communication. Don’t get me wrong, you could text, but the process was extremely involved and convoluted. Typing a single letter required the user to mindlessly poke at his or her key pad several times. Don’t even get me started on how frustrating the process of correcting a spelling mistake on a mobile phone was! Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that just as technology has evolved a lot over the last 15 years in Canada, so too has basketball. In the late 90’s The Toronto Raptors began to attract a new consumer; in many cases a younger fan who was getting his or her first taste of Basketball. 15 years later and these millennial consumers have developed into die hard Raptors supporters; they are now the ones driving the market and controlling nearly two-thirds of the spend in terms of basketball related merchandise and athletic apparel. And while the Toronto Raptors first broke into the league in 1995, it wasn’t until 2012 that the city collectively began to support the team.

Since then, “WE THE NORTH” has become a collective rallying cry that unites an entire country behind its sole NBA franchise. The success of The Raps has truly propelled basketball in Canada and led to a whole new breed of NBA fans north of the border. Recently, Canadians have also been dominating on the court. In 2013, Toronto born Anthony Bennett was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then in 2014, Andrew Wiggins, another Canadian born player, was selected first over all once again by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto’s own Drake was also recently given the role of “Raptors Global Ambassador”, after his tireless support of the city and the team.

Yes, it seems that basketball in Canada has finally caught on with the masses – albeit over 20 years after the country got its first and only NBA team. All of these events have helped to drive awareness and attention for the sport. And as basketball has grown in popularity with Canadian fans, so too has the amount of money that fans are willing to spend on b-ball related purchases.

Basketball shoes have grown from an $84M industry per year in 2013 to $147M in February 2016, +20% CAGR. Of course this pace can’t be kept up as we have seen the growth slow to +7% in the past year but that still outpaces the Athletic footwear market as a whole. All of this growth and all of this attention isn’t just driving the sport; it is really driving the fashion of the sport.

The largest factor influencing these purchases is the look. A third of purchases are influenced by the look/colour/matching of an outfit, etc. On the other hand, consumers tend to be influenced by Athlete endorsements only 6% of the time. Will the market continue to move higher? It’s hard to say. But one thing is for sure, if the Raptors can continue to keep winning deep into the post-season, it’s quite possible that basketball related shoe and apparel sales will continue to grow exponentially in Canada.


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