By Meghan Stultz (M.S.)
“Women’s apparel some day will be larger than our men’s apparel business, which is our goal,” predicted Kevin A. Plank, a former college football player who founded Under Armour 14 years ago.
For the past few years Under Armour has been on an upward journey to become one of the major name for athletic clothing companies, however they have never had as big of a success in the women’s department as they have in the men’s…but that gap is closing.
When reflecting on the company’s first attempts to go after the growing women’s athletics and leisure market in the early 2000’s, Kevin Plank commented his team’s best attempt to go after the market was to take their male clothing and “shrink it and pink it.”
After the release of their women’s pastel coloured workout clothing line was a total failure the company went back to the drawing board and came back big in the advertising world with “I Will What I Want” women’s campaign. This $15 million dollar campaign has been a hugely successful investment leading them to be named 2014 Marketer of the Year by Ad Age and recently complete their 18th consecutive quarter with more than a 20% sales growth.
So how did they change how advertisers are representing females in their ads – while keeping their advertising costs at a 1/3 compared to Nikes?
They did it by simply showing real and raw women in their element
Their digital ad’s feature emotional storytelling, that speaks to the mind and the heart simultaneously. It is relatable
The first campaign showed in late summer, Misty Copeland, currently a soloist star for the American Ballet Theatre. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA).
Misty’s Ad now has a staggering 7.6 million views on YouTube – It shows the traditional ballerina in a nontraditional way. The angles of the camera emphasis her strength in her moves – while she is wearing Under Armour apparel instead of the traditional ballerina staple, the tutu. Tied along with a narration of a rejection letter she received at the age of only 13, which pointed out all the parts of her body that are so “clearly” wrong for ballet.
The second Ad to be surfaced featured supermodel Gisele Bundchen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-V7cOestUs). Gisele is seen training with a punching bag – but this time the narration is plastered all over the walls with a live feed of social media posts. Some positive posts but mostly negative comments like “she’s not an athlete, stick to modeling sweetie or she is a has-been.”
As a female with an athletic background I think these campaigns are so powerful because it relates back to how we’ve all dealt with negativity and adversity throughout life, be it in a sport or on a social media platform.
The way Under Armour presents these advertisements with the narration reinforcing success can overcome failure creates an emotional connection for their audience to their message, ultimately making it stronger.
I was happy to have stumbled upon this video, which gives a great summary from the creators and where you can see the companies authenticity shine through – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqTl7C2LTFQ)
When commenting to Advertising Age, Senior VP, Ms. Fremar, says the insight behind “I Will What I Want” was not “you go, girl,” she said. The goal was to celebrate women “who had the physical and mental strength to tune out the external pressures and turn inward and chart their own course.”
Ms. Fremar distilled the narratives to a few words: In Ms. Copeland’s story, “will trumps fate,” she said. And for Ms. Bündchen, “will trumps noise,” she added, a reference to the unforgiving media glare on supermodels.”(Schultz, 2014).
These types of media ads get attention – and they are getting it for the right reason. They are inspiring females to not look at themselves as a female athlete but simply as an athlete that can break any barrier presented to them.
My favourite line from the clip was “You don’t need permission when you have will”.
I have never asked permission as an athlete to go to a certain gym, try out for a certain team but have always felt the looming judgments or stereotypes because I am a girl. If I’m cut, not strong enough for the next level or too insecure I should just give up instead of challenging myself.
Now through messages like these from Under Armour, they are changing how we see females in advertising and in turn in our own personal sport worlds for the better – showing that women can face fear, criticism, and surpass the limitations that society and ourselves have put on one another. Challenging us to have the will to want what we want and to go out and achieve it at any cost!