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I commented a week ago about how UA’s brand message was beginning to extend beyond its core, with forays into NASCAR and Bass Fishing over the past two weeks. Well, that clearly has not let up.
  • 1) It’s no secret that Dick’s and Under Armour have been married for much of the past three years. Well, UA’s eyes are wandering over towards Sports Authority. The two came out publicly on ESPN this Sunday featuring Chicago Bears star Devin Hester promoting the Performance Trainers.
  • I think that the implications here are material. The DKS/TSA union has been sacred in retail. What’s good for one is good for the other – and vice/versa. But my rather strong view is that with UA reaching close to max productivity inside DKS stores, it has to look elsewhere for growth. In other words, Dick’s is starting to outlive its usefulness for UA (to the same intensity it had in prior years). I think we’ll continue to see this trend diverge, and the performance gap between the two widen. In the battle between content and distribution, content usually wins.
  • What does this mean for Nike? Check out the photo below that shows a TSA employee fixing a UA exhibit, but with a traditional Nike uniform. Nike has been massively dominant in TSA – especially vis/vis DKS/UA. Does this mean that Nike makes a bigger push into DKS? It’s possible. But all I am sure of is that frictional change with brands in this space across major accounts is rarely clean. For Nike this is a rounding error. But as someone like DKS tries to navigate through this tweak, it could be a bit choppier.
  • 2) In an unrelated brand marketing photo-op, how can I pass on showing the photo of Devin Hester filling up his muscle car with some good ‘ol wholesome $5/gal gas? Tough to buy that kind of publicity… Nike job UA.
  • 3) Check out Darren Rovell’s Sports Blog on CNBC. He put up an interactive poll last night asking viewers to rate new ads for Nike, UA, and Reebok. Nike wins the ‘best commercial’ vote by a factor of 2x, but interestingly only beat out UA on the ‘intent to purchase’ poll by 2/3. Still big, but not as much when you consider that Nike has 35% of the UA market and UA has about 2%.
  • The bottom line here is that it seems to me that Under Armour is hitting puberty from a brand evolution perspective. It is gaining the confidence to go beyond traditional brand messages, and more importantly, beyond its primary distribution partner.
  • I still think that margins at UA need to come down, but the branding story definitely continues to evolve nicely. I’m more concerned about Dick’s, who loses a significant traffic driver on the margin.
A Sports Authority employee setting up the UA exhibit wearing Nike garb.
Devin Hester Filling up his UA-Mobile. UA faring well in the Sports Biz reader survey. UA's doing something right...