Published on March 1, 2016 by Jake Wilks  

Who doesn’t like an Underdog?

Some of the greatest moments in sports involve stories of the biggest underdogs. Underdogs inspire and influence us all; we find ourselves desperately aspiring to see them succeed. Whether it is a single person or a team, it is the underdog that shapes the world of sports one Cinderella story at a time. Perhaps Under Armour will be another Cinderella story in the near future.

We love stories of nobodies turning into somebodies. Under Armour has taken that underdog mentality and run with it by using the “love of the Underdog” as the driving force for its marketing strategy and sponsorships. Under Armour is doing it’s best to compete with Nike, who has dominated the industry for many years. One thing in common with all underdogs is that they never stop competing. Under Armour has that “gritty” determination and so do the athletes they sponsor.

The Mentality of the Person Who Started it All

Kevin Plank, the current CEO of Under Armour, played football at Maryland. He worked his way up to the position of team captain after being initially ignored by recruiters and having to fight to secure a walk-on spot freshman year. He discovered a common problem – cotton t-shirts held moisture like a sponge, weighing down athletes. He realized there was no solution, so he created his own. He started the brand in his grandmother’s basement. Over the next years, as his brand grew, he never lost his underdog mentality. He always remained hungry and sought opportunities for growth. Each year at Christmas, he sent Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, a card with the simple message, “You will hear about us one day.” In 1996, he generated $17,000 in sales. Now, just 19 years later, the company has just recorded its 19th quarter in a row of over 20% growth. Last year the company brought in $3.08 billion in revenue. Under Armour passed Adidas as the second largest US sportswear company behind Nike. Plank’s story is one that anyone can relate to and rally behind as he showed relentlessness as an underdog to strive to overcome the best in the business.

Under Armour’s Attitude

Under Armour’s marketing executive Adrienne Lofton told Fast Company that the brand considers itself an "underdog brand. "We pick the athlete with a chip on their shoulder and their desire to win because it aligns with our own attitude.”

The Sponsored Underdogs

Stephen Curry - Undersized, underrated, and overlooked, Steph has been considered an underdog his entire life. Having no big D1 offers, Curry ended up at a small school named Davidson. After having a historic career at Davidson he was still overlooked in the NBA draft. He went on to win the NBA MVP, and defeat Lebron James in the NBA finals, making him one of the most beloved underdogs of all time. Even Nike passed up on signing Curry as one of its sponsors. Stephen Curry is now helping Under Armour achieve more success than they had originally anticipated. Under Armour launched the “Curry One ” sneaker and has seen explosive growth since the release. He has helped boost the company’s entire outlook. The Curry-branded sneaker has sky rocketed shoe sales up to a company record $153 million last quarter. Sales in that category grew 754% in the second quarter. Curry is showing that Under Armour can, and will compete with Nike in the shoe business.

Jordan Spieth - Jordan has taken over the golf world by storm. He is known for his fierce competiveness and tremendous focus and drive to win. These are the things Under Armour wants their brand to portray. Spieth won the Masters at only 21 years old, and is now one of the youngest players in history to win five times in a single season. According to business insider, in terms of endorsement value, Spieth is No. 2 in sports, trailing only Michael Jordan. Also in terms of consumers aspiring to be like certain celebrities, Spieth is No. 1 among athletes. Before winning the masters he sat at No. 333. Jordan Spieth represents the culture and mentality that makes Under Armour such an easy brand to root for.

Misty Copeland - Under Armour has also signed Misty Copeland, an African American Ballet dancer. Her story of overcoming poverty and rising to the top of a prestigious company, dominated by mostly white dancers, has motivated and captivated the hearts of many. Under Armour made a commercial starring Copeland and experienced tremendous success with the video going viral.

Underdog stories like Copeland’s is what draws consumers to the athletes and ultimately to Under Armour as a whole. The success and likability of these sponsored athletes is helping Under Armour compete with, as Plank says, “those guys in Oregon.” Under Armour is far behind Nike at this point, but with its constant growth and underdog mentality, it may not be long until it catches up to Nike. As of right now it will continue to slowly take away some of Nike’s market share. Perhaps one day Under Armour will have a Cinderella Story of its own. One thing is for sure, I am rooting for the Underdog.

This Blog Post was written by Samford University Student Jake Wilks.


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