Under Armour Seeks Agency to Work on Growing Women's Line

Marketer Said to Have Narrowed Down Choices to Goodby, Cramer-Krasselt

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Under Armour, which has quickly built one of the most iconic brands in sports with its internal creative team, is seeking some outside help.

The Baltimore-based apparel and footwear company, best known for its stark, testosterone-fueled "Protect this house" ad campaigns, has narrowed a quiet agency review down to two shops -- Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and independent Cramer-Krasselt -- for a project involving its expanding women's line, according to people familiar with the matter. It's not entirely clear whether those agencies are competing against Under Armour's internal team, led by creative director Marcus Stephens, or competing to collaborate with it.

A C-K spokeswoman declined to comment, and a call to Goodby was not returned.

Under Armor VP-Brand Steve Battista confirmed the company was talking to agencies generally but didn't disclose details. "As our brand grows and our business scales internationally, we're open to any and all partners that we can find in the advertising and marketing world," he said.

The internal team has served Under Armour well for most of its history, but there's little question its expertise is in selling to men and to teen boys, perhaps a factor in the marketer reaching outside for help selling to women.

The pitch comes at a time when the recession and the challenge of entering into the competitive footwear category have conspired to slow Under Armour's once torrid growth. After launching in 1996 to sell sweat-wicking T-shirts, the marketer last year posted $725 million in revenue, having established itself as a major force in apparel and broken into footwear with football cleats and cross-trainers, as well as running shoes, which it launched earlier this year. Its sales grew only 5% during the second quarter, compared with 30% in the same period last year, as the company's footwear sales fell 18% when they lapped last spring's running-shoe launch.

Under Armour has increased its ad outlay dramatically in recent years, spending nearly $22 million in domestic measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, up from $16 million a year earlier. But its budget is still minuscule compared with category leader Nike, which shelled out nearly $148 million for measured media in 2008.

Of the two agency finalists, Goodby has a longer resume in sports, where it handles creative work for the National Basketball Association and for Pepsi's Propel brand. C-K, whose clients include Porsche and Corona, hasn't worked with as many major sports marketers, although it was a contender in the 2007 pitch for New Balance's creative account, ultimately won by BBDO.

UA has also considered Minneapolis-based Mono, owned by MDC Partners, and the Richmond-based Martin Agency, owned by Interpublic Group of Cos., for the assignment, people familiar with the matter said.

While Under Armour has not previously worked with a full-service outside agency on a creative assignment, it has collaborated with various creative production and design shops, such as Shilo and Asylum. It also retained Deutsch for PR and consulting work in 2007.

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Rupal Parekh contributed to this report.

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