It's no secret that Under Armour is gunning for Nike, or that it considers women to be one of its primary growth markets. But as the Baltimore-based athletic wear company is readying its first-ever marketing campaign just for women, it's also looking to broaden its demographic reach -- launching the Under Armour Challenge this week, a gauntlet-style competition on campuses. (Events tie in with MTV's "Real World/Road Rules Challenge.") Adrienne Lofton-Shaw, Under Armour's senior director of women's marketing, brings Marketing Daily up to date:
Q: So what's up on campuses?
A: We've launched a college program with brand ambassadors just for female college students, using online engagement, on-campus fitness-oriented events with celebrity guests, fitness center takeovers, and pop-up shops. It's a first for us in the women's brand, and a first step toward consumer brand ambassadors, not just professional athletes. The programs, which are at Auburn University, Arizona State University and Penn State, focus on the 96% of college girls who don't get the scholarship, but still want to work out.
Q: Why just college-age?
A: We are thinking in terms of life stages, and we've covered the high school athlete and the young working woman. But on campus, we can't always be seen -- especially when a college has a relationship with another brand. But we need to make sure she is surrounded by our mindset. For example, one of our ambassadors teaches a spin class, and we'll take it over, outfitting everyone in the class in Under Armour. It's important that this consumer be introduced to the brand in the right way, with the right voice, in the right light.
Q: What is she like?
A: We don't focus just on age. Whether she is 16-year-old soccer player or a 40-year-old yogi, she is a multifaceted athlete. We are launching more in product-specific categories, such as yoga or running, but she doesn't just do one thing. She is competent, sporty, feminine, beautiful. Friends look up to her, and she is a style leader. She is also tribal, and likes to be involved in a larger community, so she is more likely to go to a spin class than run on her own. She's youthful and works out because she wants to feel good, not because she wants to be a size 8. She's driven.
Q: What do women really want?
A: First, a good sports bra. It's the gateway to our brand, and critical to winning the hearts and minds of women. A bra that doesn't work right quite literally ruins your day. Second, she needs bottoms that fit her life, like a workout pant or a Capri or shorts that go from a workout to coffee to picking up the kids. So not only does it have to perform in her workout, it makes her day better.
Q: What other initiatives for women are coming up?
A: Our women's program, as a whole, continues to grow at a pace nobody expected -- not just apparel, but footwear and accessories, too. Next year, we'll kick off a marketing campaign that will be larger than any campaign you've seen from Under Armour.
Q: Will it have the intensity currents ads do, like those that focus on the superchallenging workouts of athletes like skier Lindsey Vonn?
A: Our marketing will always be athletic, but this new campaign will have a little wider lens. The current "I will" campaign, which is a crossgender effort, is as hard as it gets, and says to women that we need to keep up with guys when we are running with the boys.
This new effort will a little more general, and appeal to women who work out with passion and drive. We want women around the world to know Under Armour is here for them, too.