NEW YORK — Athletic apparel and footwear company Under Armour has launched a global ad platform that taps into the stories of celebrated athletes, Kevin Plank, founder and executive chairman, revealed at the National Retail Federation's Big Show on Tuesday.
The campaign will run across broadcast, online, out-of-home and social media, according to a company press release.
Elements will roll out throughout the year, including motivational personal letters from athletes such as this one from Michael Phelps, experiential activations in cities such as New York, London and Shanghai, and an eight-episode podcast starring winning athletes hosted by journalist Cal Fussman in partnership with iHeartMedia.
"The Only Way Is Through" spot features a number of athletes including NBA star Stephen Curry, Olympic Gold Medalist Kelley O'Hara, NFL legend Tom Brady and Olympian Michael Phelps. The message pushes athletes to work hard, tap into their inner fire and be themselves.
The new effort attempts to position the brand as a leader in the competitive athletic space by tapping some of the biggest names in sports and using their personal biographies to push the message that "the only way through" takes hard work.
The slogan also serves as a rallying cry of sorts for the sportswear brand itself. Under Armour's fresh brand platform comes as the company aims to increase sales under new leadership, while also being investigated for improper business practices.
"We want to be a really quiet company and a really loud brand," Plank told a keynote audience at NRF's Big Show Tuesday morning, sporting new black sneakers he said aren't yet available for sale.
He said for the past three years "we've been in the engine room" rebuilding the company. The new advertising embraces a customer who "needs a dream," regardless of gender or age, and not just another "capable athleticwear or footwear manufacturer."
On Jan. 1, Plank relinquished his role as CEO to serve as executive chairman and brand chief. Former President and Chief Operating Officer Patrik Frisk assumed that role, the first change in leadership since Plank founded the company in 1996. Plank's departure was revealed just before news broke that the company is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Justice Department over its accounting practices. The SEC is looking into whether the brand altered sales to "appear healthier."
The questions into the company’s sales come as analysts have suggested that Under Armour has a branding problem. Despite being the third-largest athletic brand behind Nike and Adidas, the company has found it challenging to appeal to new customers without a strong brand identity, per Ad Age. The new multichannel campaign looks to reach consumers using a variety of tactics, including by getting into the growing space of branded podcasts.