Under Armour in Public
Andrea K. Walker
The Baltimore Sun
July 24, 2008
Detectives in the HBO crime series The Wire go after bad
guys in Baltimore wearing shirts and tactical gear made
by Under Armour. The thugs in the television show wear
hats and hoodie sweat shirts manufactured by the
Golf characters in a Tiger Woods Golf video game play
longer and better in hot weather when they put on an
Under Armour polo-style shirt.
And in the movie Gridiron Gang, the team of troubled
youths and their coach, played by Dwayne “ The Rock”
Johnson, hit the field in Under Armour uniforms.
In just a decade Under Armour has vaulted from virtual
unknown to one of the most successful practitioners of
product placement, getting its products—and
logo—featured in films, TV shows and video games.
During the first three months of the year, Under Armour
apparel appeared in cable shows nearly 3,000 times, more
than any other company, according to Nielsen Media.
Most of the appearances were in MTV Road Rules, a show
where reality television stars compete in athletic
Under Armour got its big break when its brand was picked
up for use in an Oliver Stone football movie starring Al
Pacino, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. An adviser to the
movie who had seen the apparel on NFL Europe players
showed it to the wardrobe crew, and they liked what they
Under Armour’s signature product, body-hugging shirts
and shorts that wick sweat from the body, were worn
throughout the 1999 film, Any Given Sunday, including a
much- talked-about locker room scene where the Under
Armour logo was displayed prominently on a jockstrap
worn by Foxx.
It was a coup for the small startup founded by Kevin
Plank, giving it a chance to get its brand in front of
tens of thousands of people at time when it had little
money for advertising.
It was also the beginning of Under Armour’s growing
relationship with Hollywood.
The company now has a person on staff whose job it is to
work with the wardrobe and costume people on movie and
TV sitcom sets. Earlier this month, Under Armour played
host for a star-studded Hollywood summit for movie
producers, directors and wardrobe people during the ESPY
awards—the Oscars of sports. Under Armour also sponsored
the ESPYs. The company got leads on two movies and a
pilot while at the event.
Under Armour no longer has to persuade people to use
their products in movies. Casting directors now call on
the company, which has become hugely popular among
“Under Armour has gotten to a point where Hollywood
wants their product in a movie,” said Mark Ellis, a
former football player and the founder of Sports Studio,
which choreographs sports scenes for movies. “The brand
adds value and authenticity to a show. Many producers
won’t ask for a dime for the product, they just want the
Key part of strategy
Steve Battista, senior vice president for brand said
product placement is a key part of Under Armour’s
“Campaigns come and go, but if we are creating a
movement it seems much larger, and more importantly, has
a greater impact if the kids and viewers see the Under
Armour commercial, see real athletes on field wearing
Under Armour, then see it on a TV show or movies,”
Battista said. “It all adds to the momentum of the
Battista said there are various ways product placement
deals are done. Under Armour may pay to have its gear
worn in a movie, or a company may ask to purchase it
from Under Armour. Or it may be part of an advertising
package, or an in-kind deal, in which Under Armour
supplies the gear and the movie doesn’t have to pay for
Battista declined to give any specific financial
Under Armour emerged on the movie scene at the same time
there was a surge in sports-related movies—and the need
for sports gear—thanks to the success of films like
Cast members from dozens of movies have worn everything
from Under Armour skull caps and wristbands to its
T-shirts and mock turtle necks, hats and sunglasses.
Keanu Reeves’ quarterback character wore Under Armour
apparel in the football movie The Replacements, as did
the players in the ESPN drama Playmakers, which depicted
the lives of the coaches, players and families of a
football team. The high school football team in Friday
Night Lights wore Under Armour uniforms, as did the
character AJ in the final episode of The Sopranos when
he was working out for an Army physical.
The Under Armour brand has also made appearances in
video games. In Fight Night 3, former Dallas Cowboys
player and Under Armour spokesman Eric “Big E” Ogbogu
was one of the boxers game players could choose to be.
Product placements like these are one of the oldest
forms of advertising and marketing. Soap operas are so
named because of the detergent companies that used to
sponsor them, said Patrick Quinn, chief executive
officer of media research firm PQ Media.
It got a big boost in 2000 when producer Mark Burnett
gave out bags of Doritos and Mountain Dew as
refreshments on the hit TV reality show Survivor. A
Pontiac Aztek was also given out as a prize.
But the practice has increased in the past several years
as other traditional means of advertising, such as
television commercials that new technology allows people
to skip, have become less effective.
Spending on product placement increased from $523
million in 2002 to $2.9 billion last year, according to
Marketing experts said product placement can be
effective if it’s not too overt.
More of an option’
As the media landscape has changed, product placement is
becoming more of an option for brands and agencies,”
Quinn said. “People are inundated with promotional
messages all day long. They’re skipping ads as much as
“If it’s done right—created with seamless integration—it
can be quite effective. It can create a longer brand
impression than the 30-second commercial spot,” he said.
The practice, in fact, has become so widespread that the
Federal Communications Commission has begun to look at
whether product placement pitches have become too
covert. The agency said it would consider rules to make
it clearer to viewers when brand-name products appear in
shows in exchange for money.
But Under Armour officials said they’re very strategic
about how they use product placement. Battista said that
during the filming of Gridiron Gang, he asked producers
to cut back on Under Armour use because he thought it
“When we talk about brand integration and getting inside
programs, it’s more than putting a logo in the
background or paying to have someone wear your shirt,”
Battista said. “You have to be extremely picky about
this because you never know how it’s going to end up on
Battista said the goal is for the product to blend into
the movie or television show and not look like an
advertisement. He said the company often works with film
producers in the early stages of a movie.
“Being able to work with a producer or a screenwriter
early on allows us to do it in a way that is organic,
not intrusive to the story line and true to our brand,”
And the company gets a payoff when stars in the movies
end up wearing the brand off the set. Actress Kate
Hudson and actor Matthew McConaughey have been
photographed wearing the gear in their free time.
“The Matthew McConaughey photo was popular with the
ladies in this office,” Battista said.
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