Calia may have launched with a well-known celebrity face — Carrie Underwood — but the private label women’s athletic brand from Dick’s Sporting Goods has managed to develop a large following above and beyond the country music superstar thanks to its blend of style and performance, according to the company.
Calia, which was created with Underwood in 2015, is the retailer’s second largest-selling women’s fitness brand after Nike. And even after the singer exited the brand in late 2021, it has continued to thrive, according to Chad Kessler, executive vice president of vertical brands for Dick’s. “We’ve been seeing exceptional growth in Calia,” he said. “The customer is attached to it and the business is very healthy.”
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Kessler and Dick’s expect the brand to continue to gain in importance thanks to the launch of Calia’s newest collection, Inspire, on Monday. The hero product will be leggings, Kessler said, but Calia Inspire will also include shorts, bodysuits, dresses, tanks, sports bras and other products available in sizes XXS-XXL in stores and 1X-3X online.
Inspire’s claim to fame is a fabric called Lycra Adaptiv, which Dick’s said is new to the marketplace. The fabric is said to boast the same strength as traditional Lycra spandex but with superior support and compression. Its fibers mold to the body, growing and contracting during motion and maintaining their fit at rest.
The collection also features BodyFree technology meant to inhibit odor, BodyBreeze Wicking technology that aims to draw moisture away from the skin and UPF technology that’s meant to protect against the sun’s rays. Testing was also done to ensure the products are not see-through.
“We put a lot of work into the fabric with Lycra,” Kessler said. “It’s like you’re not wearing anything but still being supported. It will take you from the most intense workout to just running errands.”
“We wear it throughout our daily lives, and [Calia has] become a staple in many women’s wardrobes both inside and outside of the gym,” said Alycia Scott, vice president of vertical brand design for Dick’s. “With Inspire, we wanted to create pieces that were tough enough to withstand the most intense workout, but comfortable enough to wear all day long. We want women to feel like they can do anything and have Inspire move with them.”
Kessler, who joined Dick’s from American Eagle Outfitters one year ago, characterized the Inspire launch as “the coming-out party for Calia.” He focused in on the leggings, which he described as “the most versatile that Dick’s offers,” and also pointed to the sports bras and matching sets as other key pieces in the collection.
Kessler said the Calia Inspire collection will be launched with a “360-degree marketing campaign” designed to not only reintroduce the Calia brand to existing customers but also attract new shoppers.
A national ad campaign that launched Monday is entitled Calia Inspire: There’s Beauty in the Burn. The 30-second spot, which was developed by advertising agency Opinionated and features Big Boss Vette’s song, “Pretty Girls Walk,” is intended to show how the intensity of a workout can be inspiring, allowing people to leave the gym feeling confident and beautiful.
“The launch of Inspire and release of ‘There’s Beauty in the Burn’ is a big moment for the brand, signaling the start of Calia’s next phase of growth,” said Emily Silver, chief marketing officer of Dick’s. “We are thrilled to be bringing a campaign to life that showcases the true elegance found not only in aesthetics but in the grit and strength displayed by everyday women.”
The spot will be used across Dick’s social channels as well as on streaming services such as Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon. It will air on broadcast for the first time during the 66th Grammy Awards on Feb. 4.
Kessler said now that the Calia brand is well established, there is no need to have a celebrity face connected to the label. After Underwood departed, the retailer tapped four ambassadors to serve as the Calia Collective: Olympic gold medal gymnast Shawn Johnson East, “Orange Is the New Black” actress Dascha Polanco, golf and travel correspondent Alexandria O’Laughlin, and entrepreneur and influencer Hannah Bronfman. But now the brand is going it alone.
“We appreciate what Carrie brought to the launch and the Calia Collective got the message out, but the brand can stand on its own now and we don’t need a celebrity face,” Kessler said. “Celebrities are good for initial buzz, but we’re building on what we have.”
The goal with Calia Inspire and the new marketing campaign is to position the brand as a viable peer to the powerhouse national brands, he continued. “We make some really strong product across our vertical brands and we work hard to put them on par with national brands.”
The retailer’s largest private brand is DSG, which Kessler said offers “amazing value” to customers across men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and hard goods. “It’s a trusted entry point,” he said.
In addition, Dick’s offers Vrst, a premium men’s athletic brand that “fills the white space with a different aesthetic than our national brand partners;” Quest, an outdoor equipment brand; Maxfli golf brand, as well as several other labels. In fiscal 2022, private brands represented 14 percent of Dick’s overall business, or some $1.7 billion.
“In every category, we have a vertical brand to fulfill the unique demands of our customers,” Kessler said.
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