Under Armour: More than a Brand?

by Joy Henry

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Maryland Under Armour® gear for sale at the University of Maryland College Park Official Bookstore. (Photo by Joy Henry)

“We Must Protect this House!”

With an incredibly intense commercial, Under Armour chose those five words as the way to introduce themselves to world. When former football player Eric Ogbogu shouted that tagline—we had no idea who or what Under Armour was, but we all took notice.

Back in 2006, Under Armour was the newest company jumping into the billion-dollar performance sport apparel business.

Now Under Armour is a prominent brand in football and other performance sports. With their focus on cutting-edge technology and creative marketing campaigns, they have leapfrogged established brands such as Reebok and Adidas.

Fast forward to today: Under Armour has gone from an unknown brand to becoming the second-largest performance apparel company just behind behemoth Nike.

Kevin Plank started Under Armour in 1995 while he was a student on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park. Due to Under Armour’s meteoric rise in sports apparel world, Plank has become one of Maryland’s greatest alums.

In 2008, the University of Maryland Department of Athletics announced that Under Armour would become the exclusive official outfitter of Maryland Athletics. According to The New York Times, the University of Maryland and Under Armour signed a 10-year contract extension that will pay the university nearly $33 million in cash and gear.

With that said, it is hard to escape the organic synergy that Under Armour and the administration at University of Maryland have cultivated with each other. Under Armour is ever present on campus—it’s logo is seen on game day uniforms worn by all the University’s athletic teams. Under Armour track suits and backpacks are worn religiously by student-athletes. The campus bookstore sells almost exclusively Under Armour products.

The partnership seems to be working well between the sports department and Under Armour but what about the Maryland student who has no affiliation to sports or sports life on campus? How does the Under Armour brand appeal to them?

Despite the brand being everywhere on campus, journalism student Daniel Offner said that Under Armour is not a brand he typically shops for.

“I wear Nike usually, or Adidas,” he said. “I don’t really buy Under Armour. When I shop, it’s whatever is cheap and looks nice, but I don’t really have alliance to any brand.”

Sasho Cirovski, head coach of the men’s soccer team, feels the impact of the partnership is a positive one. He explained that having Maryland and Under Armour in a partnership has helped bolster his program.

“It has had a phenomenal impact,” Cirovski said. “Our uniforms have been rated the top uniforms for the last three years in college soccer. Kids love gear and in recruiting when you have them see they are wearing the best apparel on the planet that helps. But not only that but we get custom made jerseys and we have also been an incubator for soccer development for UA.”

But does the non-athlete student truly care about the Under Armour brand as much as the sport department does?

The answer is no, not really. After a few hours of sneaker watching and surveying which performance gear members of the Maryland student body wears daily, a trend was noticed: most of the student body does not wear Under Armour gear. Most students wore Nike products and plenty of New Balance and Adidas gear.

When a student was spotted wearing Under Armour, it normally was a University of Maryland t-shirt paired with Nike sneakers or Adidas gym pants. Students were wearing Under Armour only because they wanted to wear University of Maryland gear.

“The only thing I have (that is Under Armour) is really old and I haven’t worn it in a while, and this was before Under Armour became as big as it is today,” Offner said. “I used to play basketball throughout middle school and high school, and I thought the sleeve they sold was really cool, so I bought the Under Armour one. But beside from that I don’t own that much Under Armour.”

It is shocking that at Under Armour’s flagship campus its message is not resonating with regular students like it does for the athletes. Perhaps for Under Armour to finally overtake Nike, it should focus on starting an “athleisure apparel market” that is perfect for the the once-a-week gym-goer. That would be great for students who are not necessarily looking for performance apparel. Then maybe all Terps will become a part of  #TeamUnderArmour.

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