Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 158

Marketing and Sponsorship

Under Armour yesterday launched “I Will,” the brand’s biggest global marketing campaign to date. The campaign features a 60-second spot that includes Nationals CF Bryce Harper, Bobcats G Kemba Walker, tennis player Sloane Stephens and boxer Canelo Alvarez. The spot debuted online yesterday and will make its TV debut Saturday during TNT’s NBA All-Star Weekend coverage. UA President, Chair & CEO Kevin Plank and COO Kip Fulks introduced the new campaign in N.Y. alongside Texans RB Arian Foster (UA). In Baltimore, Chris Korman noted the campaign “recalls the old ‘Will you protect this house?’ commercial that first helped the company become popular,” and the spot focuses on “an area that has become increasingly important: high-end technology and innovation.” UA “wants you to think of it as the company constantly pushing to find ways to make your life as an athlete better.” The message “doesn't deviate much from the founding principle of the company -- faster-drying fabric -- but it does represent an elevation of the concept.” it is “interesting to note that much” of the new spot centers on Alvarez. Although the WBC light-middleweight champion from Mexico is “well-known in boxing circles and his home country, he's yet to make a huge impact in the United States.” But he “fits the upstart, underdog image that Plank has cultivated.” That also is why Stephens, the "only ranked teenager in pro tennis, appears.” Meanwhile, the company also “released details on its Armour 39 product line, which has been in the works for several years and focuses” on measuring "will power." The product “costs $149.99, and you can download a free application onto your phone or tablet that will deliver the diagnostics.” A pre-order sale for Armour 39 “will begin on the company's website Friday, but the product won't be available until March” (, 2/12).

SPEND MONEY TO MAKE MONEY: UA Senior VP/Brand Steve Battista said that this year’s spending “will be up about 20% over a year ago, given the brand's sales growth.” Data from Kantar Media showed that the brand spent about $12M "on measured media in the first three quarters of 2012.” Battista said, "It's been 10 years since we've had an anthem." He also said that the new campaign is “friendlier to females than previous attempts at ‘dual-gender’ campaigns” (, 2/12).

CONCERNS ABOUT A REVOLVING DOOR? In Baltimore, Jack Lambert notes UA Senior VP/Footwear Gene McCarthy resigned from the company on Jan. 24 after being hired in ‘09 to “make Under Armour one of the top players in the shoe market.” McCarthy is “at least the fourth high-level executive to leave Under Armour since August 2011, a departure rate that worries some industry analysts.” Analysts and industry experts now are “wondering why Under Armour executives continue leaving the company, as well as what is next for its footwear business.” The biggest impact of McCarthy’s departure is the “effect it will have on Under Armour’s footwear business.” The 17-year-old company “still controls just a small portion of the national, non-cleats shoe market.” Fulks has “taken over as head of the company’s footwear department.” But Raleigh-based Sports Group Int'l VP Dave Reinhart said that UA “still has a deep bench of footwear executives, many of whom were brought in under McCarthy, who are capable of creating innovative shoes” (BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/8 issue).

Bulls G Derrick Rose said that he "loves the ad" that adidas released following his ACL tear last season, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. The brand put out a spot entitled "Wake Up," which showed the city of Chicago's reaction to the injury and his subsequent recovery. Rose said, "If you got injured and you wanted a commercial to come out, if you asked any other player or anyone in any type of sport to ask for a commercial, it would be a commercial just like that, where everything stops in the city and you (are) working hard to get back on the court." The "Wake Up" commercial was part of adidas' greater campaign centered around Rose entitled "The Return." The campaign was "bold and brilliant" and "captured the city's appreciation." adidas VP/Global Basketball Lawrence Norman said, "We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to do something unique and something that had never been done in the industry before, which is showing the athlete when he's not on a pedestal but on the road to recovery." adidas Global Dir of Brand Communications Ryan Morlan and his team "came up with 'The Return' and began releasing commercials in a mini-documentary format, culminating with 'Wake Up.'" The "dramatic commercial unfolds with the city of Chicago coming to a glum standstill." Hawks G Kyle Korver, who played for the Bulls last season, said, "That commercial that you see every 10 minutes, that's really the way the city was. The whole city really was taken aback by it and really down, because of who he is and because of how he plays the game and how hard he works and because of how he treats people. All those things wrapped into one make Derrick Rose who he is" (USA TODAY, 2/13).

TOO CORPORATE? In Chicago, David Haugh writes Rose's comments in his interview with USA Today "raised questions that go beyond the stability of his knee." Questions about whether the "humble hometown hero from Englewood has gotten lost somewhere amid a corporate marketing campaign packaging him." Questions "about how much control the Bulls really have over a player they have invested" $95M in -- or $165M "less than adidas invested." Nothing that Rose "has said or done during his rehabilitation has happened by accident." adidas turned Rose's recovery "into a slick six-part commercial for its pitch man." Haugh: "When first reading Rose's quote Tuesday about 'not coming back until I'm 110 percent' I admit to wondering if those words would be part of an upcoming ad campaign, complete with Twitter hashtag: #110percent." The "broader issue involves how much influence" Rose's agent B.J. Armstrong and others at Wasserman Media Group "will wield in determining whether Rose returns in late February or March or waits to re-launch his career next fall" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/13).

Asics yesterday signed a three-year deal to become title sponsor of the L.A. Marathon, which now will be known as the Asics L.A. Marathon. The brand first partnered with the L.A. Marathon for last year's race as a product category sponsor. The race becomes the first U.S. marathon where Asics holds a title sponsorship (Asics). In California, Kari Hamanaka noted the title sponsorship was “previously held by American Honda Motor Co.” An Asics America spokesperson said that the cost of the sponsorship is “expected to be a multimillion-dollar investment.” The company is “title sponsor of the Stockholm Marathon, and also is involved to lesser degrees" with races in N.Y., Paris and Tokyo. Asics has “developed merchandise that will be co-branded” with the L.A. Marathon, and the brand will be “part of all marketing for the race.” The deal comes as Asics America “continues to work toward a goal set a few years ago to grow sales" to $1B by '15. The company "last reported sales" of $680M in '10 (, 2/12).