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Under Armour Soccer Brand Presence
In January, the National Soccer Coaches Association will convene its 75th annual soccer coach’s convention in Baltimore. Nearly 1,000 participants from MLS to the rec coach will pack into the convention center to listen, learn, swap stories, and rub elbows with soccer’s elite.
The soccer landscape has changed. Gone are the days that the big manufacturers like Nike, adidas, and Umbro spent huge money wooing attendees at the NSCAA Convention. Even mid-level soccer brands like Diadora and Puma have declined to attend.
With one exception – Under Armour.
At the 2015 Convention in Philadelphia, UA’s convention booth was led with flagship sponsorship, English Premier League powerhouse Tottenham Hotspurs. They displayed the Spurs kit, glitzy player photos, and high-energy videos. But it was clear UA was not ready to launch an American soccer story. But possibly because it’s still in development?
Manufacturing support for soccer at the U.S. level.
When Umbro left the scene many years ago, there were two major sports manufacturers supporting soccer – Nike and adidas. Nike locked up the U.S. Soccer Federation, the governing body for U.S. Soccer, and adidas quickly signed an exclusive deal with MLS. These deals locked all other manufacturers out of the most visible soccer properties.
But there are plenty more opportunities such as minor pro leagues, including NASL, USL NPSL, and a mix of other semi-pro leagues. College soccer continues to struggle to find its place and youth soccer is muddy with USYSA, AYSO, and US Club Soccer all wrestling for control of the up-and-coming superstars.
However, none of these options carry more than local or regional penetration. As the brand continues to explode, playing 3rd fiddle behind Nike and adidas will not sit well for Under Armour. So how do you make brand presence in-roads in the United States?
How to become an Elite Soccer brand
It isn’t going to be easy…but if anyone has a chance to break into the game, Under Armour does. Here are 3 reasons:
#1 Top Soccer Executive
In 2014, UA created a new position – Category Director of Global Football – and lured Peter Gansler to Baltimore (yes, son of former U.S. National Team coach Bob Gansler). Peter learned the ropes at the adidas Group as Player Manager for Global Football and stints in management positions with several European pro clubs. He knows the game, is well respected, and learned from many of the best sports marketing minds.
UA is clearly playing catch up. English Football has great global presence and Tottenham is a huge international brand, but UA has little else to show the U.S. market today. However UA is not inexperienced at sponsorship and endorsement. If you look at UA’s approach to other sports, there are successes with Jordan Speith (golf), Cam Newton (football), Stephen Curry (basketball), and Clayton Kershaw (baseball). We also know that UA is not afraid of taking a risk, with the bold endorsements of ballerina Misty Copeland and model Gisele Bundchen.
#3 Connection to Millennials
UA has strong brand appeal with millennials, so there is a natural extension into soccer, which has seen recent growth spurred by the Gen Yer’s. UA does not come off as a “big” brand” with deep history and tradition – something millennials don’t seem to care about. UA is driven by authenticity of their product, and many soccer players are attracted to the new way of looking at their associations.
UA may have been thinking about it for quite some time and Baltimore is home. It may just be a perfect time to roll out bigger things at this year’s NSCAA Convention.