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Under Armour Super Bowl Ad Reaches For the Sneaker Wall

Posted by: David Kiley on January 31, 2008

Under Armour is running its first-ever Super Bowl ad this Sunday for its first ever sneaker.

We have seen the ad that will be veiwed on Sunday. There was some disagreement around BusinessWeek as to how good it is.
Super Bowl advertising isn’t exactly a black art. In my opinion, it takes a combination of insight about the opportunity presented by the game and the huge audience, and about your brand. It is remarkable to me how many advertisers can’t put this together, and produce milque-toast ads for the big game.

Overall, I like the ad. There is a story at work here. A combination of film and computer-generation, the effect of the ad is that it appears a bit video-game like. It starts with view of a computer-generated city, a helicopter’s eye view of a stadium. A voiceover proclaims “Prototypes. Leave Everything Behind.” It is a call to action to the Under Armour brand fans. Then we see a series of vignettes of athletes working out, but not in a gym. One is pulling a tire with a chain hooked to his waste. Another is doing sit-ups with his feet tucked tucked under an engine block. Another is doing lateral stepping with a cinder-block in his hand while stepping side to side on two race-car tires. It has kind of an “Escape From New York” Snake Plissken atmosphere to it.

Also, look for athletes who aren’t identified, and not easily recognizable, like the New York Giants Brandon Jacobs and San Francisco 49ers’ Vernon Davis. I’m glad UA didn’t resort to a cheap celeb strategy like Paris Hilton.

The voiceover comes back: “We started this thing.” Under Armour is a relatively new, upstart brand, compared with Nike and Adidas. It has a bigger market share than either company in “performance” apparel, meaning shirts and shorts that wick away sweat instead of absorbing it. And it has become a cult-brand among high-school team athletes the last five years. Legions of different groups of athletes in the ad then converge in the city, headed toward what I can only describe as a strange sort of brand rally. One of my colleagues seemed to be put off by the seeming Communist rally feeling of the scene in the ad’s crescendo, which you’ll have too watch for Sunday.

But I think Under Armour, which produces its ads in-house, and receives some brand consulting and planning services from Deutsch, got it right for where the brand is now, and where it’s headed. Itis a fast-growing challenger brand with a strong customer advocacy factor. The production values in the spot are excellent. Some will surely dislike the ad because it feels like it doesn’t welcome them into the brand.

But that’s the point. Under Armour isn’t a brand for everyone, the way Nike and Adidas are. It’s not a fashion brand. It’s a brand for competitors. And while most people want to play, not everyone wants to compete. However, given how much I like the sneakers, I’d say Under Armour came to play and compete in the Super Bowl, and on the sneaker wall at Sports Authority.

Reader Comments


February 2, 2008 10:49 PM

Use your iPhone to vote for the Under Armour ad. Please visit Don't have an iPhone? Just go to with any PC.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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