THE RUN YOURSELF ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN BY UNDERARMOUR, INC.
UnderArmour Inc. is an American firm that manufactures and distributes sport apparel, footwear, and sporting accessories. The company began selling footwear in the United States IN 1996, and has since expanded to Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. UnderArmour has upset the contours of the sportswear market, taking away market share from established brands such as Sketchers, Adidas, and Umbro. UnderArmour has accomplished this by tapping into the growing athleisure market. Athleisure refers to footwear and apparel with non-athletic applications. Athleisure’s popularity has caused fashion connoisseurs to term it the biggest fashion trend since skinny pants (Germano 2015). In 2015, UnderArmour reported that it anticipated a doubling in sales over the next three years (Germano 2015). UnderArmour places second in sportswear sales in the United States, behind Nike (Germano 2015).
In 2015, UnderArmour rolled out an advertising campaign dubbed Rule Yourself. The ongoingcampaign is part of UnderArmour’s endeavor to gain a greater foothold in the Sportswear and apparel market. The campaign was also part of UnderArmour’s goal to challenge Nike’s dominance in the sportswear market. With $3billion in sales in 2015, against $28 billion for Nike, UnderArmour was looking to make further inroads into Nike’s market lead (O’Reilly 2015).Rule Yourself was also a response to Nike’s Better For It campaign, which the company had kicked off in April, 2015. The marketing campaign had targeted women in a colorful and star-studded campaign (O’Reilly 2015). In February, 2015, sports brand Adidas had launched Sport 15, a major market campaign designed to help the company reclaim its former glory after years of progressively declining sales (O’Reilly 2015). UnderArmour therefore had plenty of incentive to polish its Rule Yourself campaign to perfection. Apart from challenging market Giants such as Nike and Sketchers, Inc, the company was also looking to hold on to the market share it had secured hitherto.
Since 2006, UnderArmor has oriented its lead to female consumers. UnderArmour’s prior campaigns had focused heavily on female consumers. 2014’s I Will What I want campaign was the company’s most expensive campaign until that time. The campaign used far-famed female athletes and celebrities to market women’s footwear and athleisure apparel. Rule Yourself was similar in target and temperament to I Will What I Want(UnderArmour 2015), but with a theme that was less women-centered.
The UnderArmourRule Yourself Campaign had a global reach. Campaign organizers employed several media to distribute commercials, short films, and internet advertisements. On August 24, 2015, UnderArmour premiered the campaign at its Baltimore headquarters (O’Reilly 2015). The campaign began with the release of the ‘Anthem’ short film. The film had been short over a period of three months and featured some of the world’s most far-famed athletes. UnderArmour collaborated with the Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister (UnderArmour 2016). The Anthem spot featured high-profile athletes such as basketball player Steve Curry, who at the time was the NBA’s most valuable player. It also featured American Ballet Dancer Misty Coperland, the National Football League’s Super Bowl champion and most valuable player Tom Brady, as well as golf superstar Jordan Spieth (UnderArmour 2016). The film was shot across the United States and involved up-close shots of above-mentioned athletes. Anthem’s cinematography undergirds the campaign’s theme. Using special effects, the film depicts each of the athletes heading a large army of alter egos, who meld into one person at the end of the film. Metaphorically, this corresponds with the campaign’s title, Run Yourself. The alter egos represent the different facets of each of the athletes, and the eventual merger represents the harmonizing effect of hard work.
Fig 1. Misty Copeland as she appears in Anthem (UnderArmour 2016).
The Anthem spot was accompanied by other videos that aired on television as well as online platforms. The company rolled out three other spots after anthem. The first one aired in February 2016 and featured members of the United States gymnastics team. This was followed by a video showing the Holland soccer player Memphis Depay in training. In March, the brand also released its final short film, which showed Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps in training (UnderArmour 2016). The films built on the theme established at the start of the campaign: a person was the sum total of his training. The new films carried the tagline “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light” (UnderArmour 2016).
The Anthem spot aired on major sport and entertainment channel including MTV, ESPN, CBS, and NBC (UnderArmour 2015). Underarmour also employed digital platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the UnderArmour You Tube Channel to popularize the campaign. Subsequent videos featured on television as well as digital platforms. For Rule Yourself, UnderArmour abandoned its prior strategy of 70% television advertising and 30% digital advertising. Instead, the brand switched to 50% television advertising and 50% digital advertising (Dinsmore 2016).
UnderArmour’s social media advertising campaign also featured an online reward campaign that rewarded followers who participated in an online competition. The brand invited followers to share stories of their training and fitness pursuit. The company promised to feature the top stories in an upcoming documentary about training, fitness, and determination. Using the Twitter hashtag #runyourself,UnderArmour also invited its followers to share their workout videos and the motivation behind their push for fitness. In addition to getting an opportunity to feature in a full-length documentary, users were also rewarded with t-shirts and other sportswear (UnderArmour 2016).
Fig 2. A branded Ruleyourselft-shirt. UnderArmour’s rewarded followers with sportswear in the Twitter campaign (UnderArmour 2016).
Underarmour also used billboards in major cities to draw attention to the Rule Yourself. However, the campaign employed posters and billboards to a lesser extent than had previous campaigns such as ‘I Will What I Want’. In the United Kingdom, UnderArmour used a billboard mounted on a boat that sailed back and forth on the Thames (Advertolog 2016). The billboard carried the faces of some of the athletes that personified the Run Yourself campaign.
Fig 3. UnderArmour used this boat-mounted billboard depicting various endorsers. The boat sailed the Thames back and forth (Advertolog 2016)
As part of the campaign, the brand also held ArmourDay, an event in Baltimore to mark the company’s 20th Anniversary. Major athletes and celebrities, including some of the athletes who appeared as endorsers in the campaigns and music acts Kid Rock, Nelly, and Neil Diamond, highlighted the event (UnderArmour 2016). The event drew more publicity for the Run Yourself Campaign.
UnderArmour’sRule Yourself campaign was well-timed. Foremost, the campaign began shortly ahead of the Rio Olympics, and was timed to end just as the games began. The sportswear industry has grown increasingly competitive as major brands compete for the ballooning athleisure market. The decline of robust brands such as Adidas and Umbro underlines the fickle hold that even leading firms have in the athletic sportswear market. The fluid nature of modern advertising also compels firms to be aggressive in their campaigning to keep their brands from fading from the public spotlight.UnderArmour had also seen significant challenge to its inroads in the athleisure market, particularly from market leader Nike. Nike’sBetter For it was similar in themes to UnderArmour’s 2014 I Will What I Want campaign, and attempted to take back women consumers who were increasingly drifting to UnderArmour. In addition, Adidas was attempting to reclaim the position it had lost to UnderArmour with its own Sport 15 campaign.
UnderArmour’s heavy focus on digital marketing was a prudent strategy in light of the expanding use of smart phones. As traditional television viewership declines and the digital realm takes over electronic communications, it was only prudent to give more attention to digital advertising. Digital advertising plays an important role in creating wants in among consumers. The identification of needs and wants is the first step in the consumer decision-making process. While needs are easily apparent, wants are less apparent. Targeted advertising creates wants among consumers. UnderArmour’s use of influential athletes such as Olympic champion Michael Phelps enabled the millions of people around the world who admire Phelps to identify with the narrative in the short films. Specifically, the message that great athleticism is built by unglamorous hard work likely resonated with many of Phelps’ admirers across the world.UnderArmour’s campaign created a functional need. Since many people already appreciate the importance of fitness and athleticism, Rule Yourself catered to the functional need for a fitness partner by advertising its products as part of the package that goes into living a life of fitness and positivity. Each of the four short films in the campaign received more than a million views on You Tube, with the Anthem video being viewed more than ten million times and Michael Phelp’s video receiving more than five million views (UnderArmour 2016). The short films also received positive reviews from the press. Time magazine labelled the short film series, while the Huffington Post called it ‘captivating’. Forbes’ Will Burns’ called the ad campaign ‘visually arresting’ (Mirabella 2016).
UnderArmour’s engagement of top cinematographer Wally Pfister was a prudent investment. Pfister’s masterful use of visuals and sound enables the short films he put out to capture the essence of the campaign’s themes flawlessly. For example, his contrast of the claustrophobic circumstances under which Michael Phelps trains with his glamorous victories echoes the contrast of dark and light as presented in the film’s tagline.
For consumers in the ‘information search’ and ‘evaluation of choices’ stages in the decision-making process, the videos present an opportunity for the brand to swing consumers toward their products. The videos association of positive attributes with their products and endorsers are likely to sway consumers in their direction.
Results and outcomes
UnderArmour rolled out is campaign in August, 2015. The campaign had a significant impact on the company’s earnings and foothold in the sportswear market. UnderArmour’s net earnings grew 38% in the fourth quarter of 2015, increasing from $896 million in 2014 to $1.17 billion in 2015. At the same time, full-year earnings grew by 28% in 2015 (UnderArmour 2016). In the same period, the company’s Earnings-per-share (EPS) grew to $0.48, from $0.40 in the prior year. Most notably, UnderArmour’s footwear sales rose 95% in the fourth quarter of 2015, increasing from $86 million in 2014 to $167 million in 2015 (UnderArmour 2016). The company put down the strong increase in footwear sales to Steve Curry’s part in the Run Yourselfad campaign. Apparel sales were similarly bolstered by the campaign, registering a 22% growth in sales. UnderArmour’s international revenues also registered strong growth in 2015, increasing 70% (UnderArmour 2016).
Due to the ongoing ad campaign’s success, UnderArmour expects strong growth in 2016. In press releases, the company has said it anticipates a further 25% growth in net revenues and 23% growth in operating income (UnderArmour 2016). The company anticipates stronger growth in the footwear segment, driven by the success of the Curry footwear line.
Conclusion and Recommendations
UnderArmour’sRun Yourself campaign was a success by every criterion. Apart from delivering a strong financial performance in the fourth quarter of 2015, the ad campaign increased the brand’s visibility across the world. The success of the campaign was the logical outcome of the careful planning and prudent investment in digital marketing in preference to traditional marketing avenues. UnderArmour’s short films capitalized on the athletic facility of its endorsers to attract a large viewership. The short films created a functional need amongst fitness-sensitive consumers, in addition to drawing consumers who were searching for information and evaluating alternatives.
In 2016, UnderArmour should not rest on its laurels. As rival brands such as Adidas and Nike step up their efforts to corner the athleisure market, UnderArmour must remain proactive in advertising and brand differentiation. UnderArmour should pay particular attention to women’s wear, which has traditionally been its long suit, and which did not register strong growth in 2015. UnderArmour’s phenomenal success in the footwear segment suggests that the brand should work to solidify its position in the market.
List of References
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Dinsmore, C 2016, New UnderArmour ad for ‘Rule Yourself’ campaign draws positive reviews. Available at: http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/under-armour-blog/bal- video-new-under-armour-ad-for-rule-yourself-campaign-draws-positive-reviews- 20150825-story.html[Accessed 08 May 2016].
Germano, S. 2015, “Business news the week ahead: Nike, in the lead, hears footsteps.” Wall Street Journal, September 21. Available at:
http://search.proquest.com/docview/1713911724?accountid=7285[Accessed 08 May 2016].
UnderArmour. Inc, 2015, Under Armour Launches “Rule Yourself” Campaign Featuring Tom Brady, Misty Copeland, Stephen Curry and Jordan Spieth.
Available at: http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/UARM/0x0x847485/49C97815- A6FA-492C- B112-9700FE1E434F/UA_News_2015_8_24_UA_Biz.pdf[Accessed 08 May2016].
UnderArmour. Inc, 2016,Under Armour Reports Fourth Quarter Net Revenues Growth Of 31% and Full Year Net Revenues Growth Of 28%, Available at: http://uabiz.com
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Mirabella, L 2016, Social media fuels Under Armour’s latest Rule Yourself campaign. Available at:http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/under-armour-blog/bal-armoury-social- media- fuels-under-armour-s-latest-rule-yourself-campaign-20160321-story.html [Accessed 08 May 2016].
O’Reilly, L 2015, Under Armour has launched its latest shot in its bid to topple Nike. Available at:
http://www.businessinsider.com/under-armour-launches-rule-yourself-campaign-2015-8 [Accessed 08 May 2016].