Under Armour is introducing two new sneaker designs (May I call them sneakers?) this week in an attempt to increase its share of the $22B athletic footwear (sneakers) market. A market, by the way, that was only about $3B in 1993. The TV campaign handled by Twofifteen McCann and Digiteria for digital offers a lot of smart tactics: the director of Friday Night Lights, a YouTube takeover to reach the younger buyers, limited distribution to build demand, Cam Newton, and an idea that ties sneakers to sports action – Footsteps. As smart as these tactics are, they feel like a pastiche of forced-together marketing tools from an Effie Awards Annual. I suspect they will work, however.
First and foremost though, one must ask if footwear is a business Under Armour wants to be in. I say no. And I’ve said so before in WTI. Sunglasses? No as well. UA founder Kevin Plank, in his heart knows this. He owns a franchise that is now being diluting. You can’t keep sticking the same tea bag in new water. The company already owns fast twitch muscle, form fitting wicking shirts but will lose that ownership as it takes its eyes off the ball. Wicking sneaker tops? Not so sexy. Lindsey Vonn. Oh yeah.
Mr. Plank’s next move should be into form fitting shorts and shirts for the fashion conscious market. Leave the kicks to Nike. Or start a new footwear endemic company This is one brand extension that might sell some shoes near term, but is going to turn Under Armour into a brand in decline overall. And it’s sad. Stop playing with feet! Peace.
(Picture from NY Times.)