DANA POINT, Calif. – Conventional wisdom says fighting a war on two fronts isn’t the best idea. Yet in business that strategy is necessary to steal market share and continue growth. With a 2016 goal of $1 billion goal in women’s apparel, it appears that Under Armour is using the aforementioned dual-front strategy. The recent launch of Under Armour’s I Will What I Want campaign isn’t just marketing to the female athlete, it’s marketing to the athletic female.
The innovative campaign aims at attracting both types of women by using athletes who aren’t stereotypical endorsers. One of the spots features ballet dancer Misty Copeland, a name most sports fans may not know. According to Under Armour vice president of women’s marketing Heidi Sandreuter, Misty personifies the campaign because “Misty’s personal story reflected the idea of having the inner strength to follow no one and follow your dreams.”
The campaign was definitely a focus (and a hit) at the espnW conference. espnW was the perfect target market for Under Armour — which was a sponsorship partner for the conference — and the focus on women’s empowerment resonated with attendees. This is especially relevant at a time when one out of five women identify themselves as women athletes and four out of five identify as athletic women.
As the lines between fashion and athletic apparel blur, companies will have to change how they present products to women; athletic apparel may be the new denim. That means Under Armour must compete with Nike on one side and lululemon athletica on the other. Sandreuter said that’s a challenge Under Armour is up to:
There is a balance, and some pieces we provide are more about performance, and others are little more stylish that you won’t wear while working out. We know we have to increase our stylish factor . . . Women won’t compromise on performance and style. We’ve got great performance products, and if we can dial up the stylish element . . . that’s going to be the winning combination.
Sandreuter explained that this attitude is focused on disrupting and changing the market. “We can always show disruptive and new angles on what athleticism is, and what being an athlete is.” That’s where Gisele Bündchen came in. “Gisele was the disruptive choice of the athletic female.”
This new campaign doesn’t mean Under Armour is straying from its performance roots. As Sandreuter puts it, “we are always about performance. That is the DNA of Under Armour . . . We will add technical aspects to our stylish products that come from our performance products.” If Under Armour can continue to blend its performance advantages with new and stylish offerings, it may be able to catch and surpass its competitors. Still, the consumer, not the competition, is the focus: “We are less focused on what our competitors are doing, and more focused on the consumer and what they want,” Sandreuter said. With this mindset, the $1 billion goal will surely be achieved.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.