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There is more to the global sportswear and accessories market than the dominance of Nike, adidas and Puma. The recent emergence of Under Armor in markets outside of the US shows that there are openings that can be exploited.

Now, ASICS — the performance shoes brand with a Japanese pedigree — wants to do some heavy running in the regional markets. It has opened a subsidiary in Dubai, which will handle all of its sales and marketing pursuits. In doing so, the brand replaced the previous distribution arrangement it had with Falaknaz.

“The new organisational structure will help deliver accelerated growth, replicating its success in Europe where we are the leading premium sportswear brand, as well as a popular lifestyle brand in ASICS Tiger,” said Alistair Cameron, CEO of Europe, Middle East and Africa operations. “ASICS is currently underrepresented.”

Part of the solution to get its exposure right will be through developing “direct relationships” with select retailers, through mono- and multi-brand sporting goods store operators and on e-commerce platforms.

“Currently, ASICS is the number one running brand in the world and the number four sports brand globally. Our business is estimated to be worth $3.5 billion (Dh12.9 billion) with the US and Europe as our biggest markets. As the regional sports industry continues to grow, we see a unique opportunity to respond to the increasing demand for premium sports goods.”

There has never been a better moment for sporting brands — established and aspirants — to fit in with local consumer expectations. New gym locations are proliferating and so are its membership rolls. Dubai’s masterplanned communities are investing in cycling tracks and dedicated jogging areas. The new wave of municipality owned parks offer more than just green laden attractions, but go the full distance with sporting and lifestyle options.

Across malls, these global brands and the outlets their retail partners operate have become quite visible. As for local consumers, it is never enough to be engaged in performance pursuits... they need to look the part as well. Another spike in demand has been created by the genre known as “athleisure”, everyday wear which marries performance aspects with leisure activities.

“We are now looking to build our brand across other categories by delivering marketing leading products across other sports, including training, tennis and rugby,” said

Cameron. “At the moment, the best performing regional markets for us are UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“So, we will continue to work closely and build direct relationships with local retailers. In addition to the high performance collections, ASICS is also targeting the younger generation of active and fashion-conscious consumers by creating footwear and apparel.

“By 2020, we want to become the number one running brand in the region and be in the top five premium sports and lifestyle brands league.”