Under Armour Chases Women's Business in New Campaign

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Under Armour is going hard after female shoppers with perhaps its most ambitious campaign targeting women. On Wednesday, the Baltimore-based sportswear brand debuted "Unlike Any," a digital push featuring the physical exploits of well-known athletes such as ballerina Misty Copeland, stuntwoman Jessie Graff and world champion sprinter Natasha Hastings.

The women's business "is a huge opportunity," said Attica Jaques, who joined Under Armour as VP, global brand marketing for women's and youth last year. She noted that executives conceived of the idea for the campaign last summer during the Olympics, when much of the news about record-breaking women only compared them to their male counterparts.

Nike is the leader in both men's and women's activewear. Under Armour commands 7.1% of men's and 3.8% of women's in the U.S. this year through May, according to the retailing tracking service of market research firm NPD Group.

Women's products represent $1 billion of Under Armour's $4.8 billion revenue, which the company interprets as a sign of robust potential to grow. Though the brand's women's marketing team started about a decade ago, its staff has held steady at 10 people since 2012.

Neil Saunders, a managing director and retail analyst at Global Data Retail, said the new focus is a smart strategy for what many consider a primarily masculine brand.

"From our own data, we know that some women don't even realize the company offers an extensive womenswear range; others do know, but do not see the brand as being one for them," said Saunders. "This campaign may help to correct those perceptions and widen the appeal of the Under Armour brand and product."

On a recent earnings call, during which the brand announced its first quarterly earnings loss, CEO Kevin Plank said Under Armour plans to ramp up its marketing and rely more heavily on its athletic endorsers. In the first quarter, Under Armour lost $2.3 million, compared with a profit of $19.2 million in the year-earlier period, though revenue increased 7% to $1.1 billion. The company will report second-quarter earnings in August.

Over the next six months, Under Armour will roll out 350 pieces of content created with Droga5, which has worked for the brand since 2013. The campaign will start with individual videos for Copeland, Graff, Hastings, Harlem Run Crew founder Alison Desir and Chinese taekwondo champion and actress Zoe Zhang, and add a spot featuring champion skier Lindsey Vonn this fall. Each of the ads, which will vary in length, is set to the spoken word of customized poetry. Video will roll out on digital and social platforms as well as on Pinterest, Snapchat and Refinery29.

"These stories resonate -- they're human truths and whether sport or life, the learnings are powerful," said Jaques. "We can all relate." She declined to say how much Under Armour is dedicating to the new push, but said it's consistent with previous efforts. The company spent $10.8 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media.

The use of poetry with the new work allows for greater flexibility in length, which works well for a digital-first campaign as opposed to the standardized lenght of TV spots, said Felix Richter, executive creative director at Droga5. "With poetry, you can isolate one or two lines and be very powerful," he said.

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