Love the entrepreneurial story: Under Armour, started by Kevin Plank in 1996, ran the first year out of his grandmother’s basement in Baltimore. Plank was a Running Back in College and got tired of his sweat soaked tee shirts. Noticing that his shorts remained dry in practice, he was inspired to make a T-shirt using moisture-wicking synthetic fabric. Like an entrepreneur, he sold the materials directly out of the trunk of his car, up and down the east coast. Hard work. Pretty soon, the best athletes gravitated to the brand and started to wear Under Armour. Everyone began noticing and the tipping point happened quickly. The authentic sports brand was born.
Under Armour could have stayed small, but instead has jumped into the big arena going up against Nike and Adidas in the sports garment industry. Half the US share of Nike, but on the verge of over-taking Adidas for the #2 slot. And the brand is celebrating year 20.
Capturing athlete endorsements is a big bucks gamble, a bit like signing a top draft pick and hoping they can catch the ball. Look at any draft and half the first round makes it. Under Armour’s first big attempt to land a top dog was their bid for Kevin Durrant, but he ended up with Nike. But now they were in the game.
Most people start deciding what sports brand they want to get behind in High School or College, then stick with it the rest of their life. So, the 15-25 year old is the target of all your athlete endorsement. Whether by good solid scouting, a bit of luck and hard work, let’s look at the amazing roster of Under Armour.
The Under Armour Roster
So which athlete does the 15-25 year olds love? Steph Curry. Under Armour has him, signed at $4 Million a year compared to Kevin Durrant’s $30 Million per or Adidas with James Harden at $20 Million per. As reigning NBA MVP and likely headed for a second straight he is a human-highlight reel every night. His Curry One shoes are selling through the roof.
Who is the best golfer on the planet? Jordan Speith is 22 years old and just won two majors in 2015. Plus, he’s American. While Nike has Rory McIlroy for 10 years at $25 Million, Under Armour signed Spieth to a 10 year deal that is completely incentive driven, tied to performance. They initially offered him a 25 year contract.
Who is the best football player and certainly the one generating the most press? Cam Newton. Yes, he’s polarizing and controversial, but only if you’re over 25. He is beloved by the teens. Under Armour has him.
Who is the best hockey player on the planet? Goalie Carey Price. His injury alone this year has seen the complete collapse of the Montreal Canadiens. Under Armour has him.
Who is the best baseball player? Bryce Harper. He’s likely the Cam Newton of baseball, high on controversy but an athletic freak at the plate. Under Armour has him. Best baseball pitcher? Clayton Kershaw with the cool locks flowing with every pitch for the Dodgers.
Add Julio Jones, Dee Gordon, Sloane Stevens and even Misty Copeland in dance.
Speaking of Misty Copeland, here’s a defining brand changing moment TV ad (nearly 10 million views):
No doubt Nike’s roster is impressive. But they would kill to have this roster for the next 5 years. As for Adidas, they are likely scrambling to repair their roster. And maybe trying to hire the Under Armour scouts.
So are you now seeing how an underwear company has become a very cool brand?
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