The Under Armour brand is kicking butt on athlete endorsements

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Under_armour_logo.svgFull respect to the Under Armour brand, who have gone from an “under the equipment” materials business to one of the coolest sports businesses.  How did under-shirts ever become cool?

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.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 12.04.06 PM


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? 


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter.custom_business_card_pile_15837 We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

Positioning 2016.111
Powered by Zedity

The 10 best Nike Ads

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

nike adsNike is one of the Beloved Brands of all time, and “Just do it” has been one of the best tag lines in history. Consistently, over the last 20-30 years, they’ve used inspiration and challenge to deliver the “Just Do It” advertising idea. Nike does such a good job owning inspiration that when I see someone else copy this area, I think “wow that’s a good spot, but that’s so Nike”. And then when I see Nike try to get funny or cute, I think “That’s not Nike, it’s off strategy for the brand”.

When we measure advertising, we look at the ABC’S, attention, branding, communication and stickiness. Nike’s “Just do it” has been sticking in the minds and hearts of consumers since the mid 80s.

How to Predict Advertising Success

Taking smart and different to the measurement of advertising success, most tests will measure attention versus motivation of consumers. The creativity of Advertising (how you say it) has to breakthrough the clutter, in order to connect with consumers, while linking brand closely to the story. It must gain attention while ensuring the brand is an integral part of that breakthrough. The brand’s main message (what you say) has to motivate consumers to think, feel or act differently, than before they saw the message. The Advertising must communicate the main message in a ways that sticks in the consumers mind.

Based on this type of predictive tool, the best Advertising must:

  • Gain the consumers’ Attention to break through (A)
  • Puts spotlight on Brand so it is remembered (B)
  • Communicates brand’s main message through story (C)
  • Sticks in the consumer’s mind, making the brand seem different (S)

Here are ten Nike ads to inspire you to be smarter at advertising:

If you let me Play Sports

This is for all the women who kick ass in sports, including my daughter. This ad is from back in the late 90’s, Nike was ahead of its time. A likely inspiration to 2015’s the Always brand of: “throw like a girl”. This ad is huge on communication, using emotion to stick with the consumers.

No Excuses

If this doesn’t get you off your ass and go to the gym, then nothing will. This is a highly challenging ad that talks about all the possible excuses, but with a surprise ending that takes away all those excuses. The aggressive tone helps gain the consumer’s attention, the ending helps communicate and stick.

Michael Jordan “Failure”

For the GOAT (greatest of all time) this shows a glimpse of the human side of Michael. The ad’s communication attempts to humanize all the mistakes Jordan made. This is clearly geared to gaining attention among the mass fan audience. MJ has done more for the Nike brand than anyone.

Charles Barkley “I am not a role model”

Maybe not quite inspiring but truthful. This is long before all the disgraced athletes–Lance, Tiger, Kobe–and keeps it real as to athlete vs. celebrity vs. role model. This was a highly controversial message and generated a ton of media attention, as sports talk shows debated this message for weeks.


This is a highly attention grabbing ad. Nike created a hip-hop track, then matched up the bouncing basketballs to that track, giving the illusion of a very musical ad. I was in the kitchen the first time this came on the air, and based on the sound alone, I was drawn to the TV to see what was making this sound. Nike released a ‘making of’ documentary that aired on sports networks. I watched it. The attitude and entertainment value helps this ad to stick.


This is a low attention Nike ad, but high on communication. It’s targeted more to the serious runners, layering in the insights of how it feels to be a runner. It communicates how runners have to fight against the natural tendency to just stay in bed.

Colin Kaepernick

In September of 2018, Nike launched their most controversial ad, in support of Colin Kaepernick. From a PR perspective, one simple tweet by Colin Kaepernick touched off a huge Twitter storm. Regardless of the controversy, this is one of Nike’s best. The poetic copy is beautifully written and the related visuals are flawless in telling their story.

Find your greatness

For the 2012 London Olympics Nike continued their attempt to dominate the games without even sponsoring.  This spot goes as far as showing all the different London’s around the world.  The communication of “Find your greatness” speaks to what the Nike brand is all about. No matter who you are and what you want to accomplish, reach down and find your own greatness. A beautiful idea. There was a survey asking who the Olympic sponsors were, and twice as many people said Nike than said Adidas.

Unlimited Together

From the 2016 Olympics, a beautiful authentic view of the US olympic basketball team, with Chance the Rapper providing an amazing track. This is a great attention getting ad that communicates with the basketball fans. Very cool ad.


I want to end with what I think is my favorite Nike Ad. I know this one receives mixed reviews but I believe in all of us there is someone who is fighting against what we were burdened with. In this case it’s weight. But I love that he’s trying.


What is your favorite Nike Ad?


To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link:

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link:

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.


Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.


Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” is stealing away the Olympics again!!!

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

At Beijing in 2008, Nike did such a good job that almost as many consumers felt they were the Olympic sponsor.

They flooded the malls of Beijing with Nike ads, knowing that people would be so hot, they would seek shelter in the malls. It was so successful, it forced the IOC to change the rules for Vancouver 2010 where only sponsors could do any ads within 150 miles of the host city. In London, Nike’s Jordan brand has already announced that they will be carrying live tweets of the US team’s Basketball games. (to read that article, click here: Nike to Ambush the Olympics through Twitter) But Nike’s “Reach For Greatness” campaign has the chance to steal away the games of London 2012.

For me, there are two visuals that stand out from these Olympics:

  1. The kid up on the diving tower, who stands in terror and eventually jumps
  2. The fat kid running along an empty country road at the break of dawn.

Here we are watching the Olympic games, where the greatest of the greats converge. Where Silver is referred to as the first loser. Where people who come fourth are in tears and feel the need to apologize. Where millionaires are instantly made–their sponsor has their new TV ad out within seconds of winning Gold. Visa congratulated athletes with real-time footage seconds after their victory and Corn Flakes has the Gold Medal winner already on their box. Terrific marketing, but what about the average Joe? Who is for the underdog in this world?

And yet here comes Nike, with two average people trying to reach for greatness in their own way. It’s a pleasantly surprising move coming from Nike who have a stable of the most pompous and most pampered athletes of our day. This is yet another move fron Nike, a non-sponsor, to hijack the Olympics. Since Nike has enough money to sponsor the games, I wonder if they are having more fun trying to steal them away without paying. It is fast becoming a lucrative hobby. It is amazing to see real people reaching and celebrating their own versions of greatness. These average people are far more inspirational than Tiger Woods or Lebron James.

This first Nike TV ad shows all the greatness going on around the world, creatively borrowing the word London, whether that’s in London Ohio or London Nigeria, London Field or on London Street. I love the end of the ad with the kid perched up in terror on the diving tower, afraid to jump. It’s a perfect metaphor for our own fears. And then he jumps. It’s the most basic of jumps, but the point is…he jumped. Maybe if we push ourselves, we can find our own version of greatness.


The next ad, features a 12-year old from London Ohio, filmed with one shot against a voice over. And yet it is extremely creative and inspiring. This is not a super human. This is what average looks like. Here’s a kid that’s 5 foot 3, 200 pounds, trying to get in shape. Not for the games of 2024, but just to get in shape. We can all relate to this kid. None of us are going to the games, but we can each push ourselves to get a bit better and find our own greatness.


Congrats Nike, you’ve done it again. This is the best return on no-investment I have seen.


If you are in the mood to see other great advertising, here’s a few other stories:


To see a training presentation on getting better Advertising: 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Positioning 2016.112