Under Armour’s Feminine Charm – Rebecca Hopkins

August 4, 2014

Under Armour is often seen as a man’s brand, championing macho sports and aligning with world-class athletes. It could be expected then that, in the run-up to a new NFL season, its marketing would adopt the same burly, testosterone-fuelled tone synonymous with America’s quintessential contact sport. Well not this time.

Instead the company is concentrating on its feminine side. The second of its three 2014 marketing campaigns launches next week, aiming to promote Under Armour’s relevance to women athletes of all levels. The Baltimore-based brand has enlisted ballerina, Misty Copeland, of the American Ballet Theatre to front the initiative. Modern social trends increasingly see females wearing sportswear outside the gym and apparel brands across the board are cottoning on. Most realize that to attract the 21st century woman, style as well as practicality must be held in equal measure. Under Armour’s new product line hits shelves this autumn so it is reasonable to expect designs to reflect this.

Another influence behind the new marketing direction is likely to be the 26% sales increase the brand’s women’s line enjoyed over the second quarter. Riding this wave, the new campaign will highlight Under Armour’s commitment to growing its women’s business to equal the size of its men’s sector. In its own words the company wants to “grow up” with its female customers, positioning itself as ‘the’ brand of this increasingly athletic female generation.

What cleverer way to promote this, than by giving women centre stage during the NFL run-up and ongoing MLS season, one of the most macho times in America’s sporting calendar. How better to highlight the value of the gender to its brand. A marketing miss-match and a sports PR paradox, the campaign’s effectiveness will result from its eccentricity. Sports agencies are already taking note.

Having begun by targeting professional sportsmen before expanding to essentially a male-dominated product line, Under Armour now looks set to give women greater credence. A transformation is underway from a brand for boys to a brand for athletes.

The next few months will see what effect the campaign will have. Under Armour can build upon encouraging second quarter sales that jumped 34%, even if profit stayed level following an 11% increase in marketing expenses. The company has since re-evaluated its annual sales forecast to a notable $3 billion. Will this feminine touch help get them over the line?

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Rebecca Hopkins is Managing Director of ENS Ltd, a London-based sports agency tasked with promoting and protecting brands in sport. They specialize in sports PR, crisis management and online public relations.

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