Under Armour’s experience in using celebrity endorsement for enhancing one brand’s value is eloquent and it may be utilized as a “best practice” model. While it is true that Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour, used the advantage of knowing several athletes before launching his business (the T-shirt that stayed dry during on-field games) and he initially based his business on a word-of mouth strategy, he soon began to be aware of the advantages of investing into celebrity endorsement. With small steps, he approached football or basketball players, proposing various deals in order to determine them to wear the Under Armour T-shirts, becoming the brand’s image and raising like this the popularity of the brand. Plank also had the advantage of benefiting of an innovative technology, which made it easy for its products to be appreciated by players and teams, so that the shorts were included in the equipment of various teams, such as Miami Dolphins, which offered a great visibility for the brand. However, as the players grew in popularity, the budgets for celebrity endorsements needed to grow also, but what Plank understood was that for emphasizing a brand’s value one needs to know who his/her brand runs against for the same celebrity endorsement, who contributes to the celebrity’s choices regarding the advertising exposure and how well a celebrity fits with the values that the brand promotes. In addition, the rapid emergence of social media represented for Plank a significant branding strategy, helping him to tell the “story” of the brand better and more efficiently.
Tips and technology
Under Armour benefited of the advantage of knowing the needs of the athletes, as Kevin Plank himself was a college athlete and often confronted with the sweat, which affected the athletic performances. His innovative product was a T-shirt that remained dry, no matter how heavy the athlete sweated, being made of a fabric that wicks away the moisture, allowing the players to reach higher performances, as their games were no longer aggravated by their t-shirts soaked with sweat. It was the technology that made the difference, but also Plank’s strategic positioning, approach on the targeted market and communication of the brand, initially through athletes that he knew, and then through famous athletes that fitted smoothly in the brand’s philosophy and would generate increased brand awareness and brand equity for Under Armour.
Under Armour business started when Plank, a former athlete, approached his former colleagues, renown athletes, offering them the Under Armour T-shirts as gifts, for protecting them against the sweat during games, and offering also a T-shirt gift to one of the locker room neighbors of the athletes that he knew personally. This was his supply chains strategy: going directly to the targeted audience – the athletes, in order to generate word of mouth around the product, so that other athletes would become curious about the product, and buy it also. This generated indeed, a positive word of mouth, so that teams’ management started ordering Under Armour products for the entire team, as part of their equipment. In time, because of the popularity of the brand, Under Armour products landed in retail stores also, being available for all types of customers. Therefore, Under Armour applied an inversed supply chain strategy, targeting a specific market for reaching mainstream customers and developing its business.
The next step for Under Armour is to continue to follow the development of the social networking in order to optimize the brand’s presence on various social platforms as good as possible, getting the brand’s story closer to its customers, sharing its values and its philosophy. Likewise, the company is set to follow the evolution of the celebrity endorsement strategies, as it moves into the social networking and mobile technology areas and not only, reaching various levels of social interaction between the brand and its customers. The company also seeks to identify the brand with athletes that have a certain life philosophy and personal life principles, guiding their existence on them and developing their personal brand based on these personal traits. As such, the company invests in the athletes that continue to grow in popularity as their personal brand becomes more recognized, and in fact Under Armour invests in its own brand equity, as sponsoring famous athletes who enjoy a strong personal brand awareness, implies associating the company with these athletes and with their values.
What I learned
Under Armour’s case is inspiring and I have learned the significance of connections, of networking for the welfare of a business. When the business was launched, Kevin Plank only benefited of the advantage of knowing some successful athletes, his former colleagues. Staying connected, even friendly with people is highly relevant for business. Having a well-defined business promotion strategy is yet another important aspect learned from Under Armour’s case. Adapting the promotion strategies on the type of business conducted should be relevant and while for Kevin Plank that meant celebrity endorsement, each business needs to understand its market and to know how it could best advertise its brand, for reaching its targeted market. Nevertheless, every entrepreneur should use the evolving communication platforms and technology for becoming known, for telling their story to their clients.