Marketers and agencies rethink their work out loud at the 10th annual Ad Age Digital Conference. What is advertising now -- an ad or an experience? How does it get done -- and by whom? We hash out pressing industry issues like ad blocking, ad fraud, and kickbacks. We set the agenda for the year ahead. Save $400 before February 19.Learn more
Under Armour extended its sponsorship contract with the U.S. speedskating team for eight more years, recommitting to the sport after criticism that its suits slowed down athletes at this year's Sochi Games.
The contract, which had been due to expire this year, will now last until Dec. 31, 2022, the Baltimore-based company said today in a statement. As part of the deal, Under Armour will remain the team's exclusive provider of competition suits.
Under Armour's suits have come under scrutiny during the Olympics because no American has medaled in any speedskating events. The U.S. had won four medals in speedskating in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Some athletes blamed a design flaw in the suits' rear ventilation panels, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Since the Journal report, the company has been openly discussing the issue in the media, trying to pull off a delicate balancing act of defending itself without looking like it was disrespecting the athletes. Earlier this week, a number of Under Armour's other athletes, including Olympians Lindsey Vonn and Michael Phelps, took to social media to sing the company's praises.
Matt Mirchin, UA's exective VP of global marketing, told Ad Age earlier this week that UA had "conversations" with endorsers about defending the company's performance products. Others came to the company on their own due to the negative headlines coming out of Sochi, he said.
UA has no plans, at this point, to address the controversial Mach 39 speedkating suits developed with Lockheed Martin in its advertising or marketing, according to Mr. Mirchin. "We did our job. They did their job. We don't have any regrets. Our job is to make athletes better. We believe we had put the athletes in the best position from what they were wearing to win medals."
--With Bloomberg Reports