Under Armour is having a great run at the Olympic Games in Rio, and it’s not even an official sponsor.
Michael Phelps and the U.S. women’s gymnastics team have already taken home gold medals, and the brand has even more athletes from its international roster set to compete in the coming days. It means Under Armour is getting some important airtime from their athletes, and every little UA logo is counting toward the brand.
Experts say the Baltimore-based firm will garner more brand awareness from the Olympics — not just from their athletes, but also their Rio de Janeiro activations and fitness plays. According to UA executives, that was a major goal for the Rio Games from the get-go. But in terms of dollars coming in, analysts are mixed. Instead, they say, the games are about creating a story of winning athletes down the road.
“Sponsoring athletes in the Olympics is a longer-term branding effort. The return is not immediate,” said Matt Powell, sports industry analyst at The NPD Group. “But having your athletes performing at a high level is a positive brand story.”
In the spring, the brand unveiled its new “Rule Yourself” campaign, an extension of its training focused campaign launched in 2015. The spots highlighted Phelps, the U.S. gymnastics team and soccer star Memphis Depay.
The move was an early signal that the brand was positioning its standout athletes to take the biggest stage in Rio.
Sports marketing expert and executive creative director of Baker Street Advertising Bob Dorfman said even though the logos aren’t often seen on Phelps and are placed on the lower corner of the gymnasts’ uniform, the brand is still going to get play out of the events.
“But overall, [it’s] a big win for Under Armour, especially given the usual dominance of Nike in the Olympics,” said Dorfman. “It should be good for the brand down the road, and in future Olympics, as they continue to broaden their share of the athletic gear market.”