CP&B Wins Creative Duties for Under Armour

Sportswear Marketer Bets on MDC-Owned Shop to Make It a Hot Player in Basketball

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Under Armour has chosen MDC Partners' CP&B to serve as its new creative agency, focused on marketing basketball footwear, the sportswear brand told Ad Age .

To call the pitch quick is an understatement; all told, the quartet of shops that pitched the business had only 15 days to conceive and present ideas. "Part of the assignment was that they had to move at Under Armour pace ... we gave them a few extra days per our normal standards," said Under Armour's senior VP-brand, Steve Battista.

CP&B prevailed over Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners; Interpublic Group of Cos.' TwoFifteenMcCann; and independent McKinney. Unlike most pitches that tend to have a larger pool of shops chasing an account, this process began with only the four. The pitch was managed by Consigliere Brand Capital, which, though not a search consultancy, was tapped for the job because the startup's founders, former Deutsch exec Michael Duda and basketball star Steve Nash, are close to the Under Armour brand.

Steve Battista
Steve Battista

"I really loved it and felt like they were very respectful of agencies during the process," said CP&B CEO Andrew Keller. "We're all in pitches now where it's two rounds and three rounds, and narrowing it down to six agencies. These guys were looking for a relationship instead of ads. ... It was very inspiring to see that a process could work that way."

It's not a large account financially -- only about $10 million is spent on measured media, according to Kantar Media -- but the win gets CP&B back into the sneaker-marketing business. It briefly handled the Nike running-shoe account before it was moved to Nike 's main shop, Wieden & Kennedy. Mr. Keller said CP&B currently has the construction of an outdoor basketball court underway at its Boulder, Colo., office. Under Armour also marks the arrival of a new account at CP&B on the heels of the departure this summer of Diageo's Jose Cuervo brand and Bolthouse Farms. It has also added business from Kraft and Microsoft.

Historically Under Armour has favored working with an in-house creative team on ad campaigns, but it does seem to be increasingly opening up. It tapped TwoFifteenMcCann not long ago, and now conducted this pitch, it's first real review to date. "This is the first time several agencies got to come in here ... and they really got a chance to do a deep dive on our brand, and on what we wanted to accomplish with basketball."

Asked why the company chose to go with CP&B, Mr. Battista said: "They understood where we want to take the brand and where we want to go. They really did their homework. ... They seemed to fit into the culture immediately. They took the assignment and answered it, but then they took it a couple levels higher. The most refreshing part of their pitch was that they came with a platform, not just a commercial or a campaign."

The new work, which will feature a line of new basketball sneakers and feature new athletes that Under Armour hasn't worked with before, is expected to break in the fall, and will include TV work, digital and out-of -home. Exactly when the campaign will break depends largely on how the NBA lockout talks progress.

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