It didn’t take much for Kevin Plank to get the idea to create one of the world’s biggest sporting apparel brands in the world. He set off on a mission to create moisture-wicking athletic apparel for amateur and professional athletes that eventually saw his brand beat out Adidas for the 2nd biggest sportswear brand in the world in 2014.  

So, what marketing strategies does Under Armour use?

It’s no secret that Under Armourmarketing strategies are one of the best in the game with sales at just over $5 billion dollars and having tripled its marketing investments in just 10 years. But the company has now dropped down in 4th position behind Puma, Adidas and the forever kings of sportswear, Nike.

Let’s blow the whistle and start this game of analysis on Under Armour marketing strategies that propelled itself to where it once was and how it plans to gain back its number 2 spot or even challenge its biggest rivals to the top in late 2021 and 2022.  

Table of contents

Solving an Audience Gap

Just like its biggest competitors, Under Armour has used sponsorships and endorsements with many athletes, celebrities and sporting organisations. 

Some of its most notable endorsements include wrestler turned actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, swimmer Michael Phelps, basketball player Stephen Curry and the USA boxing team amongst many others. 

under armour marketing strategies endorsments
Dwayne Johnson, Steph Curry and Michael Phelps for Under Armour

In 2014, Under Armour struggled to find the reason behind its initial downfall compared to its competitors. 

Less Macho, More Women.

When looking at the main faces of their brand, they realised they were portraying a macho, aggressive and uninviting feel to women through their marketing which contributed to their loss of a potential market.  

In light of this revelation and their pursuit of change, Under Armour decided to create its ‘I Will What I Want’ campaign to adjust its brand image and include women amongst its target audience.  

Under Armour did not take the project lightly and teamed up with the New York advertising agency, Droga5, to build this campaign. Many businesses are now turning to online advertising agencies to help them maximise their efforts.

The brand decided to incorporate American ballet dancer, Misty Copeland and Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen as brand ambassadors and released their newest marketing video ads.

As a result of this campaign, according to Starting Business, Under Armour saw:

  • 5 billion worldwide media impressions
  • 730% increase in the brand’s link with the word ‘empowering’
  • 900% increase in the brand’s association with the word ‘stylish’
  • And their biggest goal of all – 

A 28% increase in sales of women apparel.  

The marketing strategy to expand their audience pool was a success and Under Armour now has a female market that comprises of 31% of consumers.  

On top of their success in sales thanks to the ‘I Will What I Want’ campaign, Under Armour, also saw an increase of 42% of website traffic that year that has only gotten bigger in the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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Harnessing the Power of Digital 

In 2020, just like with many businesses around the world, Under Armour saw the majority of its 15,000 retail stores have to shut down for many weeks and months and the company saw itself having to rely solely on its online store.  

Before the pandemic, the brand had planned on increasing its marketing budget to 12% of its annual revenue. They wanted to focus on top-of-funnel activity, drop sports marketing contracts and focus on the company branding.  

With no way of physically interacting with its clientele, the brand decided to opt for an omnichannel approach to create one of the world’s largest online sporting communities.  

The goal was not to get people to buy products, but instead, for them to see the brand as a place of experience and a way to connect with others much beyond their sporting products.  

The way they did this was to create as many digital customer experiences as possible with their brand at the center of it.  

The Largest Online Fitness Community in the World

Not only was the brand using all of its social media platforms as a place for interaction but Under Armour has now invested $710 million in three fitness apps (MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun and Endomondo), and now possesses a community of more than 120 million athletes

This makes Under Armour the largest online fitness and wellness community in the world.  

under armour fitness community online

With endless amounts of data on a large audience pool, the brand can now create more specified products and services.  

In what some could call the loneliest and most isolating year ever, 2020 called for unity and a sense of community in whichever way possible.  

In recent months and years, Under Armour marketing strategies have proved to bring various sporting communities together. They kept this same rhythm throughout the pandemic via their mobile app endorsements 

Recognising Weaknesses – Looking Ahead

Although the brand had looked at increasing its marketing spending at the beginning of 2020, Under Armour ended up spending $29 million less than the previous year for a total of $550 million.  

In 2021 however, the Under Armour board has reconstructed its marketing strategy in an almost post-pandemic view to continue working on its initial plan to raise brand awareness. This proved to be one of the best Under Armour promotional strategies to date.

More Than Just a Clothing Brand

In recent years, Under Armour marketing strategies have failed to increase brand recognition along with its sales which has now caused stagnation amongst the brand’s growth. They have not been able to prove to their audience what Patrick Frisk describes as “why they should consider Under Armour.”

In May of 2021, at the Q1 2021 Earnings Call between board members of Under Armour and the press, CEO Patrick Frisk mentioned that they are still “significantly under-penetrated from a brand awareness perspective” in various country markets such as China and Germany.  

To fix these issues, the company plans on letting go of long term contracts such as endorsements and sponsorships and instead redirect the money to spend much more on upper-funnel marketing.  

Some of these ideas were already visible with their “The Only Way is Through” (that became the “Through This Together” campaign once the pandemic hit) in early 2020.  

Frisk said that the idea of this campaign was to deliver:

…a singular Under Armour voice with focused performers [and] in 2021, we are evolving these efforts to bring the ecosystem of how we engage and inspire athletes across both physical and digital experiences into even better alignment…

Additionally, this year, the company plans on doing accelerated investments in marketing to drive awareness and increase conversions which will, in turn, raise engagement and help the brand reach its final goal: drive consideration.

At the end of the day, Under Armour wants its marketing investments to be directed beyond its goods and more on the experience the brand offers to its audience.  

The Final Whistle 

Although Under Armour has struggled in the past few years to make it amongst the top 3 most famous athletic apparel companies in the world, they are most definitely making a big shift in their marketing strategy in 2021 to carve their name back at the top.

If your business could also benefit from some changes in its marketing strategy, especially in rebranding, you may want to consider working with one of our experienced branding agencies in the United States or elsewhere to help you out.