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Social network takes on sportswear giants

A social network website has launched a £30,000 ($46,521) crowdfunding drive to finance an online sportswear line, in the hope of taking on the $250 billion sportswear industry dominated by the likes of Nike and Adidas.

Tribesports started fundraising on crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter on Wednesday, and has already raised over £26,000 towards its quest for a new sportswear line.

The company hope the new sports range will be a "gamechanger", offering a cheaper and higher quality alternative to big name brands that have to contend with multibillion dollar advertising campaigns and physical store maintenance.

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"There are inefficiencies in an outdated retail model that, being a fresh business, an online focused business, we can cut out," Jenna Anians, founder of Tribesports, told CNBC.

She said Tribesports would be able to offer its products for 40 percent less than market leaders, through the savings it make.


"If you take out wholesalers, if you take out bricks and mortar stores and if you take out million-to-billion dollar ad campaigns, and instead you sell online and you use real sports people to spread the word of your brand, then we believe we can change the way things go."

Tribesports is a social networking website where sports enthusiasts can interact, setting each other challenges, and sharing progress and goals. The company wants its users to help build a "community powered sports brand" that is "transparent", with customers able to input in designing products.

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But there are concerns that such a business model is neither sustainable nor sufficiently different from existing sportswear powerhouses.

"I would ask Tribesports, 'on what basis are you going to create a sustainable and differentiated model from the big brands?'," Professor Simon Chadwick, director of the Center for International Business of Sport, told CNBC.

Chadwick said that while big brands need to take such a challenge seriously, staying ahead in the "intensely competitive" sportswear industry will be a tough task for Tribesports.

"I don't see how Tribesports will sustain an advantage for five or ten years. The funding model is interesting but the mechanics behind making the business work and stay ahead is a completely separate matter."

Backers of Tribesport's clothing line hope to be rewarded with items from the range when it launches in November, with those who pledge the minimum amount of £6 in line for a towel.

Anians told CNBC that she eventually want to build an e-commerce platform, and said she will not "rule out" using crowdfunding again in the future.

By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal

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