The NPD Group estimates that the consumption of sporting goods around the world reached a record level of US$333 billion in 2011, which was an increase of about 5 percent from the previous year's level. The size of the global market estimated by the research company encompasses sports equipment, active apparel, athletic footwear and bicycles. The expansion compares with an increase of 4 percent for 2010, and NPD said it was driven by the running category.

Without disclosing any of the other figures from its annual world market report, NPD says that the U.S. and Japan remained the world's two largest sports markets, but Germany was dislodged from its third position and dropped into fifth place behind both China and Brazil. China was previously the world's sixth-largest market, just ahead of Brazil in seventh position. Owing to double-digit growth in China, NPD points out that the Asian market has become larger than Western Europe and Scandinavia together.

The U.K. was the market that dropped the most in the rankings last year, falling from fourth to seventh position – just behind France, which was previously fifth. The U.K. is trailed by Italy, Canada and South Korea, which occupy the same slots as in the previous year.

Some 48 percent of the global market's expansion was generated last year by products intended for daily and leisurely use, while the remaining 52 percent came from products purchased for sports use. However, functional products accounted for 87 percent of the growth across all European countries, including Russia. NPD concludes that it was safer for brands operating in Europe to rely on sports retailers and functional products last year.