In 2010, NFL Quarterback, Tom Brady, switched sponsorship from Nike to Under Armour, claiming that he saw young people using it and he wanted to stay fresh. The company launched its first global marketing campaign earlier this year and reported a 23 percent net revenue growth for the first quarter. After less than two decades of existence, Under Armour is taking on Adidas and Nike on an international field. What makes Under Armour thrive in the face of fierce competition? Strict adherence to Marketing 101 principles: (1) Use real insight to make a great product and (2) deliver a specific, strategic message to a key public.
Under Armour started on a football field where founder Kevin Plank played in college. He saw the need for moisture-wicking clothing for football players, and started working away in his grandmother’s basement. Plank never followed the philosophy of “if you build it, they will come.” Under Armour’s positioning focused primarily on football team sponsorships, public relations and strategic advertising.
It took a year of pitching to football teams before Georgia Tech picked up his gear. Many teams followed suit and Plank was finally able to move his company out of his grandmother’s basement. Plank’s next step involved getting his product into football movies, which resulted in Under Armour products appearing in Any Given Sunday and The Replacements. With the film leverage, Plank placed Under Armour’s first advertisement in ESPN The Magazine. Plank marketed to football teams, football film productions and sports news – resulting in an established, esteemed athletic brand. With a product that solved athletes’ heavy-sweaty-clothes predicament, and a marketing plan directly targeted to athletes, Under Armour paved its way to the big leagues.
As Under Armour plans to enter the European market, it should be interesting to see this brand grow on the international stage. We’ll certainly be paying attention to what they have planned next.