For years, Nike has ruled the sports apparel world. Perhaps they still do.
But for all the times that sporting brands such as Adidas, Converse, or Reebok have tried to knock Nike off its pedestal — they’ve failed.
However, despite still being less than 20 years old, one Baltimore-based company might change all of that soon.
If you haven’t been paying attention, that company is Under Armour.
After Cam Newton took home the 2015 AP NFL MVP award on Saturday night, Under Armour can officially boast the standing MVP’s in all four major US sports — plus the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
That’s right, say it with me again: Under Armour. They’ve come a long way since those “We Will Protect This House” ads.
But how? Nike is nearly 60 years old and has a market cap tenfold of Under Armour’s. As of 2015 reports Nike has more cash in hand than Under Armour had yearly total revenue.
Under Armour has taken a page from Nike’s book and they’re doing it as good, if not better than their ‘father’ in the great Northwest.
Take a star athlete, plaster the recognizable UA all over him, and hope he blows up.
You have Stephen Curry in the NBA, who looks like a lock to add another MVP this season and brought priceless exposure to the brand with the Warriors’ championship a year ago. He’s Under Armour’s LeBron James.
There’s Carey Price in the NHL, who I’m sure you didn’t realize was the NHL’s reigning MVP – a.k.a. the Hart Trophy – until I just told you. He’s giving Under Armour a footprint in both hockey and Canada simultaneously.
Phenom Bryce Harper is easily one of MLB’s most polarizing figures, especially after his ridiculous season. And Jordan Spieth essentially dominated golf from wire to wire, winning both the Masters and US Open in 2015. Consider them the Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods of Under Armour.
And of course, there’s Cam Newton — who at 26 has taken Nike’s biggest client (the NFL) by storm.
All of that is impressive in its own right, but more so when you realize the average age of the five players I just mentioned is 25.2.
Intrinsically, Under Armour has completely taken control of the youngest demographic there is to market towards by cashing big on their athlete endorsements.
Nobody’s denying the established market Nike has for itself. They develop brands better than perhaps any company has ever. They have the most innovative branding departments known to man and with that they have been able to take elite athletes and build them into global icons.
As of writing this post, Under Armour’s price per share is $72.11 to Nike’s $55.70. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than “right now” and isn’t any indication of sustainability considering Nike’s market cap is nearly five times size of Under Armour.
However, it’s undeniable that the current trajectory that Under Armour is on, and how they are executing it, is a near spitting image to Nike in its early days when Michael Jordan opened their endorsement floodgates.
It’s fair to say Nike, with an unprecedented global reach, will never relinquish their spot as pro sports’ top branding ambassador. To be frank, Under Armour doesn’t have much of a soccer following outside of Tottenham, thus making their ability to globalize that much more difficult.
Under Armour is at least 20-25 years away from scratching at the base of Nike’s door. But there’s no question that 2015 has been a landmark year for the budding company.
If they’re able to maintain their elite roster at the top with athletes like Curry, Cam, Harper, Spieth and Price, the rest should take care of itself.
Welcome to Our House, @TheRock.
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) January 25, 2016
Because aside from those five the company also boasts the likes of Julio Jones, Tom Brady, Patrick Peterson, Brandon Marshall and Randall Cobb in the NFL; Buster Posey and Clayton Kershaw in baseball; Tyler Seguin in hockey; and the likes of Michael Phelps, Misty Copeland and The Rock as other brand ambassadors.
After having a year they couldn’t have scripted, Under Armour’s reach is about to get a hell of a lot bigger.