If you’ve been following the Sport Management Academy, you already know that we were big fans of Under Armour’s “What’s Beautiful” marketing campaign. While the What’s Beautiful campaign marked a revolutionary approach to connecting with consumers via social media, it pales in comparison to the marketing campaign that Under Armour is about to unveil.
On July 9, Under Armour will roll out what CEO Kevin Plank claims, “will be our biggest marketing push ever.” (SportBizDaily.com) The Company plans to spend upwards of $10 million marketing their new Spine shoe. The shoe’s campaign will include a 30- and 60-second TV spot featuring Patriots QB Tom Brady, Bobcats guard Kemba Walker, Panthers QB Cam Newton, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and Falcons WR Julio Jones.
By bringing out big guns like Tom Brady and Cam Newton, Under Armour is following a storied tradition of apparel companies overloading advertisements with star power. Each and every major sports apparel company has utilized this strategy, which got me to thinking. How would each brand’s team of athletes stack up against one another if they were to go head to head in some sort of apparel endorsement show down? Below are power rankings for 5 major sports apparel companies’ teams of athletes.
No. 5 – Jordan
What started out as the signature shoe endorsement of Michael Jordan in 1984 has grown into one of the most recognized brand in the sports apparel industry. While I understand that Jordan is a division of Nike, its brand mark has enough clout to compete against other apparel companies on its own. In addition to having MJ himself as the primary athlete endorsement, Jordan also sponsors the likes of Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony. Beyond basketball, Jordan also has endorsement deals with Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Dwight Freeney, Andre Johnson Maya Moore and Denny Hamlin.
No. 4 Reebok
In recent years Reebok has continued to align itself with “Crossfit”, claiming the official sport of fitness has arrived. However even as Reebok moves away from major athlete endorsements, it still manages to claim the no. 4 spot in these rankings from two simple reasons, the Manning brothers. Both Eli and his older brother Peyton have major endorsement deals with Reebok. With Peyton being the most talked about free agent in NFL history over the past season and Eli winning his second Super bowl, the power these two have to influence Reebok’s brand is continuing to grow. In addition to the Mannings, Reebok also has endorsement deals with Justin Verlander, John Wall and Sidney Crosby.
Note: The Allen Iverson signature shoe line is still one of Reebok’s most popular to date. If I had included AI in this discussion, Reebok would have easily shot to (at least) No. 2 on the list. Below is a throwback – one of my favorite AI commercials from back in the day.
No. 3 Under Armour
I’ve already mentioned UA’s “big guns” above. Having Tom Brady in your corner immediately moves you up this list, and sponsoring the NFL’s most dominant linebacker in the last two decades (Ray Lewis) doesn’t hurt either. But outside those two first-ballot Hall of Famers, the UA endorsement squad is all about youth. In addition to signing 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, endorsement deals have been inked with Bryce Harper, Kemba Walker, and Hunter Mahan. Also, Under Armour’s endorsement deals stretch beyond the traditional “big 4” sports, and have signed the likes of Lindsey Vonn (alpine skier), Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer) and George St. Pierre (UFC fighter).
No. 2 Adidas
Adidas easily made its way to No. 2 on this list after making 2011 its most successful year to date. Not only does Adidas currently have signature shoe deals with Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard (two of the NBA’s most popular players), Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller, but they also have a firm grasp on the world soccer market through endorsement deals with Lionel Messi, Kaka, David Beckham and Bastien Schweinsteiger. If that lineup of world-class athletes wasn’t enough, Adidas endorsements have made the move into the entertainment world. In their latest advertisements, pop sensation Katie Perry and hip-hop artist B.O.B. both proudly don the new Adidas classic line, an urban extension of Adidas shoe and clothing line.
No. 1 Nike
I’ll assume you saw this one coming. When it comes to quality vs. quantity, Nike sacrifices neither. No only does Nike endorse the most professional athletes (by a long shot), but they also endorse the highest caliber athletes in nearly every major sport. How’s this for a starting five? Drew Brees, LeBron James, Kobe Brant, Tiger Woods, Josh Hamilton. And their backups…Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Alexander Ovechkin, Kevin Durant, Manny Pacquiao. I could give you about 20 more that could make the top ten, but you get my drift. Want to see for yourself? Check and see just how many Nike athletes made Bloomberg Businessweek’s Power 100.