Credit Kevin Plank For Telling And Building The Women's Story At UA
In July of last year, Under Armour unveiled its "I Will What I Want" campaign by bringing its biggest female endorsers to New York City to preview its advertising and announce its future commitment to the female demographic.
By the time it was through, the strength of girl power generated by skier Lindsey Vonn, soccer player Kelley O'Hara and ballerina Misty Copeland was palpable.
It's hard to give any major sports shoe and apparel company credit for paying more attention to women. It's simply good business. But the way in which Under Armour has done it has a lot to do with the attitude change from the company's founder and CEO, Kevin Plank.
That Plank embraces women's business as he does isn't a surprise given his background.
Plank grew up with a strong female figure in his life. His mother, Jayne, worked in the State Department under Ronald Reagan. Prior to that, she was one of 14 female mayors out of Maryland's 153 municipalities in 1980.
"I don't run as a woman," she told The Washington Post in 1980, when the youngest of her five sons, Kevin, was 8 years old. "I run as the most qualified candidate."
Plank honed the skill of knowing what women want by starting a Valentine's Day rose business while still a student at the University of Maryland, where he was on the football team. The $17,000 that Plank made became the initial seed money to develop the moisture-wicking shirt that was the start to Under Armour in 1996.
Plank not only has accepted that women's business is a huge part of the company's future growth, he has done an outstanding job of being the glowing front man of telling the stories his marketing team has identified.
The plucking of Copeland and the way Under Armour has told her story earns the brand major points. Take an African-American ballerina on the cusp of greatness in her niche and make her one of the faces of your women's message by telling the story of how hard it was for her to get to the top.
It was a natural for Under Armour to sign Gisele Bundchen, as her husband, Tom Brady, is one of UA's biggest endorsers. It was less obvious to convince her to film a spot free of makeup working out like a beast, a side of her people never get to see.
How both these spots resonated speaks for itself. Combined, they generated more than 12.5 million YouTube views.
Achieving the relevance that Under Armour has with women today is a credit to the entire organization, but it starts with Plank.
Under Armour's beginnings were all about macho men, of the battles in the trenches in a football game, of huddles with testosterone-filled players screaming "We Must Protect This House" at the top of their lungs.
But over the past few years, anyone who has been around Plank can see how much he has fallen in love with telling and building women's stories and associating those tales with his company.
Maybe it's because Under Armour has filled its executive ranks with strong athletic women who played sports on top levels and are now weekend warriors. Maybe it's because Kevin Plank just knows that women's business is going to make him more money.
No matter the motivation, it's a beautiful thing.