Teenage off-road champion Hailie Deegan joins Under Armour's youth drive
Hailie Deegan already is considered a groundbreaker among female athletes. That recognition has earned the teenage off-road racing champion a featured position in Under Armour's most recent youth campaign, She Plays We Win.
"When we met Hailie, she truly embodied everything that we stand for in the brand," Attica Jaques, Under Armour vice president for brand management, said Tuesday. "She's a groundbreaker, and we truly want a champion athlete, especially girls who are reaching ... new achievements. There was nobody who embodied it quite like Hailie."
Deegan, 16, is the first female to win a race and a championship in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. She was in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program last year. She is the youngest driver and the only female named to this year's nine-member NASCAR Next Class. The daughter of Brian Deegan, the most decorated freestyle motocross rider in the competition's history, also is the youngest competitor in the off-road Pro Lite category and a member of Toyota's driver development program.
It was Deegan's intense training routine that caught the attention of Under Armour executives.
"It spoke to what we stand for, which is training, as part of our brand," Jaques said. "She's incredibly fit. A lot of what she actually talks about is what she has to do to strength train. We weren't expecting her training regimen to be as intense as it was, but we're really happy that we're able to show all of the work that it takes to do what she does and achieve the things that she has achieved."
Deegan has a personal trainer and does hot yoga with her mother, Marissa. Deegan also does a great deal of cardio training, including running a couple of miles daily.
"In those race cars, it's 160 degrees inside with the motor right next to me," Deegan said. "My fire [retardant] gear is also thick and heavy. I'm sitting in there for three hours at a time."
The She Plays We Win project was founded two years ago by photographer Christin Rose to celebrate the confidence young girls build through their participation in sports. Statistics provided by the Women's Sports Foundation show that by 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys. Under Armour partnered with the project last year.
Under Armour will launch a collection of She Plays We Win T-shirts this year, available at UA.com. Deegan will be featured in Under Armour's She Plays We Win digital campaign that launches Wednesday on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Deegan's backstory also will appear on UA.com. Under Armour will be the official provider of her training apparel and footwear.
"Our hope is that by telling her story she will inspire a new generation of [girl] athletes to know that they can do anything," Jaques said. "Being able to see the confidence in her was incredibly encouraging and inspiring. Having a sport that's not traditional [in our campaign] I think shows more of a possibility of dreaming big and doing something that you're passionate about."
Deegan said she believes being featured in the She Plays We Win project will help "grow" her career and her image and allow her to show her personality.
"It shows my training and what I do to work out. I can show that through what I wear," Deegan said. "I see this as an opportunity, not more pressure. I have been racing since I was 8 years old, so I have always had pressure."
Deegan embraces the opportunity to be a role model.
"I'm excited about people looking up to me, especially girls," Deegan said. "This is giving me the power to show these girls that they can do so much more with their sports training. It can build their confidence -- their physical confidence and their mental confidence."
Deb Williams is a North Carolina-based writer and former editor. She has covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today and The Charlotte Observer. She has more than 30 years of experience covering motorsports and was the 1990 and 1996 NMPA Writer of the Year.