It’s difficult to believe, with its two million dollar Superbowl commercials and products ranging from women’s underwear to hunting gear to sunglasses, that Under Armour was once just a guy with an idea looking for retail space. In the years since it was founded, the company has grown from a small, home run organization to a hugely successful corporation partnered with some of the top names in sports. But the company couldn’t always rely on the brand-name power it has today to seal those deals. In those early days, it turned to rookies–young athletes with star potential, but without the seven or eight figure salaries of some of the big names in their respective sports.
More than ten years ago, Under Armour signed an endorsement contract with the Dallas Cowboys’ Eric Ogbogu, and although he wasn’t always a standout on the field, he made famous the now proverbial slogan, “We must protect this house.” The method worked then, and it works now. While many star athletes would probably gladly endorse such a popular brand, the Baltimore-based company has stuck to the original formula, and recently joined forces with a small group of young NBA players, including rookie sensation Kemba Walker, to promote its new basketball line.
Isn’t this avant-garde advertising approach a bit risky? Why does such a lucrative company remain quirky with marketing? According to the company, endorsement for them has always been more about building brand integrity than it is about the money. That’s easy to say when you’re a multimillion-dollar corporation, but the company actually has a team that follows the careers of college athletes and handpicks them after graduation, so their mission seems legitimate. Now I just have to figure out how I can get on their radar.