Athleisure is taking over, according to Vogue, from everyday style to high-fashion runways, with baseball caps, track suits and yoga pants gracing sidewalks and catwalks alike.

Sportswear, whether for athletes or fans, has always been a staple in promo, and the popularity of performance gear that can go from the office to the gym keeps growing. Whether it’s for uniforms, a sports team merch program or corporate apparel, comfort, functionality and style are paramount.

Quarter-zip pullovers are one of the most popular athleisure style items, requested for both sports team or fan gear and corporate branded apparel programs, says Lycia Ellis, MAS, national account executive with Massachusetts-based Walker-Clay, the No. 91 distributor in the 2024 PPAI 100. “These items not only display team loyalty but also offer comfort and versatility, making them ideal for both game days and everyday wear,” she adds.

Although heavier tees are trending, Ellis says heavy hooded sweatshirts seem to have lost their appeal. “I’ve noticed a significant decline in requests for them,” she says. “Clients seem to be favoring alternatives like crewnecks, quarter zips or lighter weight hooded sweatshirts, which offer more versatility, can be worn more frequently and are less bulky.”

A soccer fan herself, Ellis says she hasn’t done a European-style supporter scarf yet but hopes they catch on on this side of the pond. “Whenever I can, I like to show them off because they’re such a fun way to commemorate memorable events and games,” she says. 

Jacquelyn Bachner, product marketing specialist for Illinois-based S&S Activewear, the No. 5 supplier in the 2024 PPAI 100, says the most requested apparel pieces for sports-themed projects are T-shirts, hoodies, joggers and headwear. Think beyond the standard left chest, full front chest or full back decoration for more impact, she suggests. “I personally love a decoration that goes down the sleeve,” Bachner says. “It’s unique but eye-catching.”

Options abound in promo when it comes to fan gear and sports-inspired apparel. Here’s a sampling of pieces that offer stylish silhouettes, recycled fabrics and performance features like moisture wicking for high perceived value.

  maroon cap with white rope detail and gold 3D embroidered logo

“Hats are undoubtedly one of the most sought-after apparel pieces for sports and fan projects,” says Ellis, “and they typically don’t require specific sizing, making them accessible to everyone.” Ellis likes this Athletic Rope Cap, available in eight colors and made of performance fabric that offers UV protection and moisture wicking. “They are breathable for warm days, work for multiple sports, and the decoration methods are top-notch,” she says. “The athletic rope hat has a bit of retro look, and I’ve been loving it with 3D embroidery.”

Cap America / PPAI 111597, Gold 

young man wearing blue and gray colorblock hoodie

Another versatile athleisure piece perfect for showing off team spirit is the poly/cotton Sport-Tek Long Sleeve Halftime Hoodie, available in five colors and unisex sizes XS-4X. “Lightweight hoodies like these are perfect for day games or cooler evenings, adding both style and comfort to any fan’s wardrobe,” says Ellis, plus there are numerous possibilities for decoration.

SanMar / PPAI 110788, Platinum

custom woven supporter scarf

Heather O’Neill, vice president and co-owner of Walker-Clay, says supporter scarves make a fun and memorable piece. “I have done them for my team and do often get the request if corporate clients are doing sports-themed parties,” she says. This almost 5-foot High Definition Woven Stadium Scarf features a two-sided imprint area for maximum impact and high perceived value, plus fringe for added fun.

BamBams / PPAI 255565, Gold

young man wearing black and white varsity letter jacket  

Preppy style has been trending lately, and both bombers and old-school varsity jackets are a timeless and sporty way to express both style and spirit. This Varsity Award Jacket features classic elements like contrast sleeves, snap closure and rib-knit collar, cuffs and waistband. Available in black or navy and unisex sizes XS-5X.

Vantage Apparel / PPAI 113235, Platinum

  trio of models wearing blue and orange T-shirts

You can’t go wrong with a team T-shirt, and the 100% cotton Comfort Colors Garment-Dyed Heavyweight T-Shirt comes in a whopping 71 colors and unisex sizes S-4X. “This shirt is a staple and has all the best colors,” says Bachner. “It’s fun colors, heavy weight and has a nice relaxed fit that’s trending.” These tees are made by a mill partnered with the Fair Labor Association and dyed with OEKO-TEX certified low-impact dyes.

S&S Activewear / PPAI 256121, Platinum

gray joggers with waist drawcord and ankle cuffs

Don’t forget bottoms! These Holloway Eco Revive Ventura Soft Knit Joggers are made of a comfy but not clingy recycled poly/spandex blend, and the legs offer plenty of imprint area. Features include moisture management, covered elastic waistband with drawcord and plenty of pockets. Available in six colors and unisex sizes S-3X.

S&S Activewear / PPAI 256121, Platinum

clear gameday stadium tote with team logo

The clear Game Day Clear Stadium Tote with black or blue trim and handles is the perfect bag for sports fans to carry their personal items – and your client’s logo – in compliance with stadium safety rules. Note: NFL stadium rules require that logo sizes do not exceed 4.5 inches by 3.4 inches.

PCNA / PPAI 113079, Platinum