Is Under Armour’s own marketing diluting its brand?

by Nigel Hollis | August 07, 2017

The constant demand for growth from the stock market has been the undoing of many brands as they extend too far, too fast. I agree with this article in AdAge that Under Armour with second-quarter revenues up but accompanied by a loss of $12.3 million has been over-extended. And it makes me wonder whether its own marketing is contributing to its woes.

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In 2014 Under Armour was named AdAge’s Marketer of the Year largely on the basis of its advertising for women’s apparel. I am a big fan of the original incarnation of the campaign and regularly feature the Misty Copeland TV ad in presentations as one that makes a lasting impression by evoking an emotional response among the target audience.

The I Will What I Want campaign won the Jay Chiat Strategic Excellence Awards Grand Prix and Gold in 2015 and was credited with achieving a complete turnaround for Under Armour in connecting with its female audience and generating a 28 percent sales increase. But what the campaign marked the beginning of the brand’s problems rather than a step forward? What if that excellent strategy was actually the wrong strategy?

Long ago Gordon Brown, co-founder of Millward Brown, gave a presentation at a Market Research Society course in which he expounded on the challenges of targeting new audiences for a brand. Using an overhead projector, a roll of acetate (yes, that long ago) and a coin to represent the target audience he illustrated how when targeting a new target the risk was that you undermined what the brand stood for with its initial customer base. The center of gravity for the brand shifted rather than extending to embrace both the old and new audience.

Could this be what has happened to Under Armour? In seeking to appeal to women has the brand unwittingly diluted its standing among male athletes? WARC’s summary of the campaign highlights the scale of the challenge that Under Armour faced in trying to appeal to women:

“Athletic Women—women who are more focused on fitness than extreme performance—outright rejected the brand. They saw Under Armour as "meatheaded" (35 percent), "aggressive" (46 percent), "purely performance-driven" (64 percent), and "definitely not for me" (52 percent).”

There is little doubt that I Will What I Want met the challenge. The WARC summary concludes:

“We achieved a complete turnaround, connecting emotionally with Athletic Women and becoming a "brand for me."”

But nowhere does the report say what the campaign did for perceptions of Under Armour among an Athletic Male audience. Do you think the brand might have been diluted? Please share your thoughts.

2 comments

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  1. Sylvain Desfossés, August 13, 2017
    When you want to target a new segment i think the best solution is to be the more inclusive possible to avoid dilution of the brand BUT FROM THE START. That's mean aspiration can be appealing to both sex. This is the problem with positionning. it's like painting you in the corner. Create a distinctive mental availability with the logo or some others device but forget a tagline that is too much connected to a specific target. The media strategy can be able to reach other targets with different context (women magazine). I know it's not easy but Under Armour must be more universally appealing. Why absolutly use a tagline ? Sometime, demonstration is far better.
  2. Andrew , August 12, 2017
    An interesting perspective

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