Under Armour: the Underdog Biting at Nike


Born in 1996, sports brand Under Armour is currently the second in terms of sales worldwide, having beaten Adidas and preparing to take on Nike. The brand started as an underdog, and slowly but steadily made a name for itself. The company tagline, “I Will”, speaks of tenacity and determination to succeed against all odds, thus appealing to the hardcore athletes and the fighters at heart. The company has created extremely motivational campaigns using slogans such as “Earn your armour”, “Slay your next giant” and “Rule yourself”.

Even while increasing sales, Under Armour never shied away from its underdog identity and built a characteristic communication strategy around it, which immediately differentiates it from Nike.


If Nike is trendy and upmarket, Under Armour prides itself in being a “badass” brand. Its claim to fame was actually helped by the extensive use of its products by the international special operations community. When it comes to technical apparel, there is virtually no special forces unit in the western world that does not use its gear, which has also been extensively featured in major Hollywood movies such as “Lone Survivor” and “Zero Dark Thirty”.

Therefore Under Armour’s and Nike’s communication strategies cannot be more different. While Under Armour is very focused on professional athletes, Nike brings fitness to everyone. Even the motivations driving their ideal customers are different: while Nike is about proving yourself right, Under Armour is about proving others wrong.

This attitude cannot be more evident in a commercial featuring Misty Copeland, the first African American to be promoted principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. The video starts with a voice over reading a rejection letter from a ballet academy to an applicant. The letter lists the reasons for this rejection, “You have the wrong body for ballet and at 13 you are too old to be considered”, after which Copeland started displaying her skills, evidently proving that inner strength and determination can overcome every obstacle. The advert ends with the tagline “I will what I want”.


Even social media communication is more focused on motivational images rather than on displaying products. In this, Under Armour has perfectly understood that users do not tend to like and share photos of products, and it has decided to create brand awareness by making use of motivational quotes appealing to the digital audience.

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