Under Armour Features Soccer, Gymnastics and Social Media in Global Push

U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Stars As Part of Brand's Biggest Global Push Ever

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Under Armour will showcase international soccer star Memphis Depay and the U.S. women's gymnastics team in its biggest -- and most digitally focused -- global campaign to date. And the rising sports brand is not stopping there: Longtime endorser Michael Phelps will join the campaign in March via a short film, and the brand will eventually feature many of its athlete endorsers in social-media executions.

The effort builds on the "Rule Yourself" campaign that launched last fall and featured ads showing Misty Copeland, Stephen Curry and Jordan Spieth in multiples as they rigorously trained. The new campaign continues the training theme, but adds the tagline, "It's What You Do in the Dark That Puts You in the Light." The agency is Droga5.

The goal is to use more than 200 pieces of content to go deeper behind the scenes of the training regimens of Under Armour endorsers. The theme goes against the prevailing desire for instant gratification that is embodied in the popular hashtag "FOMO," which stands for the fear of missing out, said Adrienne Lofton, senior VP of global brand marketing for Under Armour. The brand will instead push "JOMO," or the joy of missing out, to signify the sacrifices top athletes must make to reach the top as they step away from aspects of daily life to focus on training.

"It's not always the sexiest conversation you can have with a young athlete, but it is the most important" Ms. Lofton said. "So our challenge and our brief to ourselves is how do we make this sticky enough and important enough to reseed the meaning hard work in a young athlete's mind."

In doing so, Under Armour will turn to digital communication like it has never done before. The brand is changing its media mix from 70% TV and 30% digital to 50%-50%. The strategy includes distributing content via the social-media accounts of Under Armour's paid endorsers, such as Mr. Curry, Ms. Copeland and Lindsey Vonn. Mr. Curry -- who just might be the biggest National Basketball Association star today -- has 4.42 million Twitter followers.

"We are going to use all of our athletes to tell the story," Ms. Lofton said. "We are going to use social and digital as a lever that we have not really maximized quite frankly in the past. Because we know that is when can have our most authentic one-to-one dialogue with athletes all over the world."

Under Armour will also call on consumers to describe their own training rituals on social media while using "#ruleyourself." Under Armour has arrangements with its star athletes to call out specific user tweets and posts on social media. The brand will also reward some consumers who use the hashtag with gifts such as a t-shirt.

The campaign will appear around the globe and in more than 40 countries, giving it a broader international reach than any previous Under Armour campaign, according to the company. The international media investment behind the campaign will increase by 300% from last year's "Rule Yourself" campaign, according to Under Armour, which declined to provide specific spending figures. Media partners include ESPN, NBC, ABC, MTV, Turner, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Complex and Popsugar.

The use of the internationally popular sports of soccer and gymnastics in the first TV ads drives home the global theme. In one spot Mr. Depay, who plays for Manchester United, is shown putting hours in training at the gym and alone on the field.

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Soccer -- in addition to basketball, running and training -- are the "keys to the future state of our brand," Ms. Lofton said. Selling gear related to those sports is critical to helping Under Armour achieve its goal of reaching $7.5 billion in revenue by 2018, she noted. The company in January reported that 2015 net revenues increased 28% to $3.96 billion, compared with $3.08 billion in 2014. Under Armour is forecasting 2016 net revenues of $4.95 billion.

By showcasing the U.S. gymnastics team, Under Armour is getting an early start on Olympics-based marketing in advance of the Brazil summer games that begin in early August. Under Armour in 2013 inked an eight-year deal to provide apparel, footwear and accessories for USA Gymnastics, marking the brand's first sponsorship of a national governing body for a summer Olympic sport.

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