Under Armour is adding an A-list actor to its marketing roster while invoking a Greek philosopher and a literary giant for a new global campaign. The 19-year-old company says it will be its biggest ad effort to date.
The campaign, called "Book of Will," channels Aristotle and Shakespeare in a pair of TV spots narrated by actor Jamie Foxx. One of the ads features Under Armour endorser and NBA star Stephen Curry, while another spot features a pair of track-and-field athletes.
The campaign, which was created in-house, puts a new twist on the brand's "I Will" tagline, which is meant to convey an underdog mentality fueled by a relentless will to succeed. The effort also marks the beginning of a new partnership with Mr. Foxx, whom Under Armour Senior VP-Creative Steve Battista described as a "creative partner." He said Mr. Foxx helped write the ads.
The star-studded effort -- which will debut on TV this Sunday -- plugs the new Curry One basketball shoe as well as two new running shoes. The campaign is the latest sign that the marketer is willing to spend big on its relatively new footwear business, as it pursues a long-term goal of toppling Nike to become the world's top retail sports brand.
In the two TV ads, Mr. Foxx appears as an on-screen narrator rebutting famous quotes that have been attributed to Shakespeare and Aristotle. Mr. Foxx will also assist Under Armour in creating digital branded content for the "Book of Will" campaign this year. The new tagline will be used all year, potentially for ads that go beyond footwear to tout Under Armour's other lines, which include clothing.
The company has a relationship with Mr. Foxx dating back to the 1999 movie "Any Given Sunday," in which he wore Under Armour gear. "That movie was so pivotal in our growth," Mr. Battista said, noting that director Oliver Stone wanted "futuristic-looking uniforms" in the film.
"We've never had a non-athlete in one of our campaigns to such an extent," Mr. Battista said. "But it felt like this just wasn't hiring a face. [Mr. Foxx is] a friend of the brand who was also coming on as a creative partner." (It is not unprecedented for Under Armour to use non-athletes, however. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen last year appeared in an ad for the company's much-heralded women's campaign, called "I Will What I Want.")
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The footwear TV ads were directed by Peter Berg, who also has an Under Armour connection. He directed the 2004 film "Friday Night Lights," in which football players wore the brand's gear.
The ad starring Steph Curry will debut during Sunday's 2015 NBA All-Star game on TNT. The spot plugs the Curry One shoe that will hit stores on Friday, representing Under Armour's biggest play in the signature shoe game that Nike has dominated.
The ad's theme is more emotional than functional, documenting Mr. Curry's rise from a mostly unheralded high school player to one of the hottest stars in the NBA. The ad, called "Volume One: Shakespeare Got it All Wrong," puts a new spin on the oft-quoted Shakespearean line that "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."
But "Mr. Shakespeare never met Stephen Curry," Mr. Foxx declares in the ad, later anointing the Golden State Warrior as basketball's "new creative genius" and "patron saint of the underdog."
The idea of "Book of Will" is to rewrite cliches or mantras "to fit our current day athletes," Mr. Battista said.
The second ad is called "Volume Two: Aristotle got it All Wrong" and features track-and-field stars Manteo Mitchell and Natasha Hastings. The spot references a quote that has been attributed to Aristotle that says "we are what we repeatedly do." (Some people say that the philosopher didn't actually say this, but that it comes from author Will Durant summarizing Aristotle's thoughts.)
Under Armour rewrites the line to say that "you are what you repeatedly do, when things get hard." The ad, which will debut on Feb. 17, plugs two new running shoes called SpeedForm Apollo Vent and SpeedForm Gemini.
The concept of updating old quotes comes from deep inside Under Armour's Baltimore headquarters. That is where where CEO Kevin Plank is known for scrawling quotes on a whiteboard in his office. He often updates old mantras or cliches as a motivational tool for employees.
For instance, instead of saying "under-promise and over-deliver," Mr. Plank on his whiteboard wrote "over-promise and then over-deliver," Mr. Battista recalled.
Under Armour declined to reveal spending figures on the campaign. Mr. Battista said it is "our largest ever" when measured by creative production as well as media exposure. The company spent $13 million on measured media between January and September of last year, according to the latest data from Kantar Media.