Under Armour I Will What I Want and Why it Works

As many of you know, we are a Baltimore-based, boutique PR and media agency, currently comprised of entirely women.  As such we sat up and took notice when Under Armour, a Baltimore- based company known for marketing towards men, announced that they would be releasing an ad campaign geared only toward women.

                Most athletic apparel companies have a women’s wear line, and naturally they produce advertisements to try and attract customers.  Yet women’s athletic gear sales are significantly smaller than men’s wear sales.  Is it because men are simply purchasing more athletic gear?  Or is it because advertisers don’t know how to target “women athletes”?

                Adidas, the brand just knocked out of second place by Under Armour, can be seen as a prime example of failed marketing towards women.

                In March of 2013 Adidas launched “All Adidas,” a campaign towards women, not that anyone noticed.  The first—and ultimately only— ad of the campaign featured Katy Perry, non-athlete, and Caroline Wozniacki, tennis pro, among a sea of unknown women.  The ad includes techno pop music, rapid jump cuts from women dancing in ballet point shoes and tutus on a street (not likely), to women in Adidas jackets dancing in clubs, to women in Adidas jackets climbing trees in a park, to women in Adidas jackets playing pick-up soccer while wearing jeans.  Wozniacki, the only recognizable athlete in the ad, plays tennis once, and then continues the parade of women in jackets walking around doing nothing.  All the colors are bright, and all the women are smiling and looking rather airbrushed.  The ad has about 400,000 views on YouTube over the course of a year and a half, and the campaign was abandoned to make way for the Adidas All In or Nothing World Cup ads.

                In contrast, Under Armour announced the I Will What I Want campaign and in July launched the first ad with Misty Copeland, a ballet soloist with the American Ballet Theater.  Everyone noticed.  In less than three months the video has been viewed over six million times on YouTube.  It is almost the exact opposite of Adidas’ ad from last year.  It is simple, no frills, just a voice over and an athlete.  Misty isn’t wearing bright pink or running around a city not working out.  She is focused on her practice, and then transitions to the stage, where she continues her routines uninterrupted.  Under Armour didn’t pander to the notion of women’s workouts being different, more social or less intense than men’s.  It treated Misty Copeland as an athlete first and a woman second, which is ultimately what most female athletes are looking for from their athletic apparel.  The ad was well-received and widely shared; it solidified dance as a sport (rightly so) and showed the direction Under Armour is looking to go with its campaign: straightforward, empowering, and understanding.

                Rather than having a single successful ad, Under Armour is continuing the I Will What I Want campaign and their second choice was befuddling at first.  They announced that Gisele Bundchen would be the feature of the second ad, and the internet responded.  People took to Twitter to express anger, frustration and support.  Under Armour was both expecting and counting on this reaction.  The second ad, which debuted on Sept. 4, already has over a million views on YouTube.  It keeps true to the style of the Misty Copeland ad, simple, straightforward, and about the workout.  It is just Gisele, kickboxing, while both the negative and positive tweets are displayed behind her.  Just like Copeland, she never loses focus; she is sweating and doesn’t appear to notice the camera at all.  She’s in an all-black ensemble, kickboxing in an all-white gym, not a club or a street, continuing the stark contrast between Under Armour and Adidas ads. 

                Lindsey Vonn is slated to be the next athlete to appear in the Under Armour campaign, and if they can keep true to the course, it will be another ad, just like the ads for their men’s line, in which an athlete is focused on a workout and nothing else.  Thus far, I Will What I Want is on track to be a truly successful campaign simply because it portrays athletes, who happen to be women, being athletes and that appeals to the market into which they are seeking to expand.  


The three ads referenced can be found on YouTube, at the following links

Misty Copeland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA

Gisele Bundchen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-V7cOestUs

Adidas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIsvor0ID_U