Under Armour successfully established its brand for women using unlikely stars like Misty Copeland and Gisele Bundchen.
Before 2014, the majority of customers associated Under Armour with men. In 2013, the corporation clocked $2.3 billion, but its women’s line brought in just $500 million.
Due to its ‘manly’ appearance, it was missing out on a large market. With its testosterone-fuelled image, Under Armour was unable to connect with women customers.
To achieve $1 billion in sales, the company needed to understand how women viewed “performance” in their personal lives and build a campaign that resonated with that.
When Droga5, Under Armour’s advertising agency, invited women to explain their feelings towards the Under Armour brand, they chose – Meatheaded. Aggressive. Not for me.
As a result, Droga4 set out to alter people’s perceptions.
It was time to get to work for Strategy Director Harry Roman-Torres at Droga5. This is a phrase he’s heard before: “To pink it or shrink it,” which refers to modifying the colour palette and the size of current men’s products to make them more feminine. ‘No thanks!’ came the response from the women who saw it.
It was their goal to transform the brand’s core of willpower into something relatable for female consumers.
‘Where there’s willpower there’s a way’
It was a time when it felt like women couldn’t be ‘right’ by everyone’s standards because of the discussion about whether or not they should be a mother. a businessman? Is it OK to be both? Droga5 blended that with the brand core of willpower.
‘You don’t need permission if you have willpower’
The campaign’s creative team of Felix Richter and Alexander Nowak did an outstanding job expressing this idea. They got to ‘I Will What I Want’ through exercising willpower in an athletic style. My willpower helps me live my own way. There was no obligation for me to adhere to any ideology or philosophy, modern or old. And that was the Under Armour woman.
The selection of non-athletic heroes was significant. The ad campaign emphasised the conflict between what you do and what others expect you to do. They created champions of women who don’t fit the mould of ambassadors of hard-core sports clothing, but whose athleticism was authentic. Women who aren’t afraid to go against the grain and get what they desire.
A ballet dancer. A lingerie model. Two formidable women.
The Misty Film
Misty Copeland was taught as a child that she wasn’t physically or racially suited for ballet. Despite being told she wasn’t good enough and couldn’t achieve, she went there and did it. Women have to work hard to obtain success; it is not handed to them. Women like Copeland helped Under Armour spread the word about the importance of hard work, dedication & perseverance.
Misty Copeland defies stereotypes of a ballet dancer. She’s only 5’2″, with a huge bust and a toned midsection. It didn’t take long after starting ballet lessons for her to start winning big dancing competitions due to her talent.
For Copeland, demonstrating that one’s inner and outer strength are intertwined is an important message for sporty women and the society at large. And not stick to the perfect ballerina body.
Copeland was cast intentionally to position UA as a direct competitor to these other brands in yoga, dancing etc. Even though she isn’t an athlete, she possessed a strong physique like the women Under Armour hoped to attract. She also introduced a fresh concept of what an athlete should look like.
The campaign could bring in huge revenues. In 2013, Lululemon Athletica had net revenue of $1.6 billion. Under Armour, wanted a piece of the action. UA needed to demonstrate its ability to be both trendy and long-lasting to do this. Women wearing Lululemon leggings both casually and in the yoga class have helped the company flourish
The Misty Copeland campaign was the culmination of Under Armour’s efforts to empower women. Lululemon had hot a rough patch. After the company was forced to recall its see-through yoga pants and CEO Chip Wilson made controversial remarks about the size of its ideal female customers, Lululemon’s year-to-date figures plunged by 35%. In the same way that Wilson degraded women’s bodies, Under Armour increased their self-esteem.
The Gisele Film
Instead of heroes, heroism or physical strength being the focus of the narrative, the focus was on the story itself. They’re always trying to teach you something you didn’t know. While the Gisele film demonstrates social media’s toxicity and lack of accountability, it shows that she is also a real being.
You don’t need permission if you have willpower. This is the insight Felix Richter and Alexander Nowak brilliantly convey
Gisele Bündchen retaliates against her critics on social media in a spectacular, one-take training video. We see a sweaty Gisele using her powerful hands to punch a punching bag while showing off real-life Twitter comments from fans and critics alike. Gisele maintains a cool head under pressure. Without promoting or biasing the story in any way, the team aimed to show the gap between Gisele’s athleticism and what others say about her online. Inspired by Chris Burden’s ‘Through the Night Softly’ performances, they decided to use minimal lighting and inventive SFX to make the video more interesting. Digital production studio Active Theory helped in portraying the technology component of the online Gisele dialogue.
The Droga5 crew was first confused about how to implement the concept. Despite this, they knew she was special. She was a strong, knowledgeable entrepreneur who defied the public’s perception of what a lingerie model should be. Every aspect of her life as a superstar was also a target for a smorgasbord of conflicting opinions. Even if you’re a celebrity, you’re not immune to online or offline criticism.
Giselle was a natural fit because of the way she handled the issues that every woman faces on a smaller scale. She keeps doing what she wants and wills what she wants.
When superstars like Gisele Bündchen appear in a campaign, the media pays notice, but neither Droga5 nor Under Armour expected such a response. From AdWeek to CBS, and an appearance on Jimmy Fallon, the spotlight was on not just another fitness brand, but a truth. For Under Armour, the unique, strong images resonated with women worldwide, potentially finally shifting the athletic company away from its “uber-masculine image” and becoming not a barrier for women, but a lighthouse.
Bundchen received a lot of earned attention, while Copeland’s video had more than 10 million views on YouTube. After the campaign, with sales of almost $3 billion, became the second-largest domestic sportswear brand behind Adidas.