It’s been over 20 years since Under Armour got high-school athletes chanting “Protect This House,” and the company says it is well overdue for a reinvention of the phrase.
Ads feature basketball legend Stephen Curry and break as the NCAA March Madness tournament gets underway. They also focus on Kelsey Plum, who plays for the Las Vegas Aces; Aliyah Boston, forward for South Carolina Gamecocks; and Bryson Tucker, the 16-year-old phenom from Baltimore, where Under Armour is based.
The company insists that while the effort is a return to its roots, it isn’t about repeating the past.
“Protect This House represents the soul of UA -- it’s our essence,” says Paul Nugent, senior vice president of global brand marketing. “When athletes go into battle, they are fighting for much more themselves. They’re fighting for those who stood next to them and everyone who helped get them there. So 'Protect This House’ is a movement that has been part of our history.”
In an email to Marketing Daily, he says the phrase has never gone away and is still written on the walls of schools all over the country. “The 2023 version is a revival, not about repeating the past but inspiring and motivating today’s athletes by reminding them they are a part of our team.”
Another difference is the core audience: Many of today’s young athletes weren’t even born when the original debuted. Nugent says that while the campaign evokes nostalgia, “we want to see it resonate with someone who has never heard ‘Protect This House.’”
He says the company is also closely tracking the fast-changing world of athletic footwear, from the running boom to persistent athleisure demands. “Footwear needs have changed drastically and extended beyond what they require solely on the field or court,” he says. Innovations include UA SlipSpeed, “ developed directly in response to athletes’ need for a footwear option that can easily transition from training to recovery.”
The campaign is a creative collaboration between UA’s internal team and Zambezi, its agency partner. A 30-second version is scheduled to run on both men’s and women’s March Madness and NBA games, as well as on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube. It’s also scheduled to run in the U.K., Germany, Spain and China.
The new effort comes at a time of transition for the company, with new chief executive officer Stephanie Linnartz stepping in just weeks ago.
And while its recent financial performance has topped expectations, observers have set a low bar. The company continues to struggle with weak sales, especially in the U.S., in both wholesale and direct-to-consumer channels.
Latest results “highlight ongoing questions about competitive positioning and necessary reinvestment,” writes Jonathan Komp, who follows the company for Baird. And under the new CEO, “new drivers and any pivots will likely take time to develop.”