The concept of a “Big 3” has long been seen as the key to winning in the NBA. Bird, McHale, Parish; Magic, Kareem, Worthy; Jordan, Pippen, Grant/Rodman; Duncan, Parker, Ginobili; Garnett, Pierce, Allen; James, Wade, Bosh; the prevailing theory is that you need three star players to have sustained excellence in the league (only one trio in the above group failed to win multiple titles).
Even though Nike might not always subscribe to the same formula, there have been instances in their history when they had three legitimate superstars carrying not only their respective sports, but the entire brand. In tennis, they have Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams; basketball has James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant; when they were rising to the top, they had Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi and Bo Jackson; nowadays, you could say that James, Tiger Woods (or Rory McIlroy) and Cristiano Ronaldo occupy that space.
Nike has the benefit of having an armada of great and popular athletes in their camp. Through their endorsers and excellent marketing and strong fan base, there is nary a sporting event where you don’t see somebody wearing the swoosh hoisting the trophy up in the air. It’s going to take a lot of luck to overtake that. So guess what Under Armour has managed to pull off so far in 2015…
In February, Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl. Under Armour athlete. This past weekend, Jordan Spieth won The Masters with a dominating wire-to-wire performance. Under Armour athlete. Over the next few weeks, Stephen Curry – only the most popular and likeable player in the NBA at the moment – has a very good chance to win the MVP and his Golden State Warriors are the favorites heading into the playoffs. Under Armour athlete.
According to the Washington Post, Under Armour’s stock went up one percent early Monday morning and has grown 25 percent since the start of the year. Sports sponsorship analytics executive Eric Smallwood said that with a whopping 16 UA logos on Spieth’s gear during The Masters, that was the equivalent of $15.2 million in advertising. Curry’s shoes have been getting a good amount of buzz for a non-Nike product. And while you might be hard-pressed to guess what Brady wears on the field, anybody who has stepped inside a sporting goods store or picked up an Eastbay knows what brand Brady reps. Oh, and for the cool kids and dude bros, they even have a partnership with Roots of Fight. I may or may not have bought any Ali/Frazier shirts that reference the Thrilla In Manila…
Like a critical putt that needs to break the right way, UA has had a huge break go their way recently. It started with the very public attempt to sign Durant away from Nike that signaled to young athletes that UA was a player in the endorsement game. Despite missing out on the superstar, it was probably for the best because if KD had signed with UA and then preceded to suffer the same foot problems he’s going through now, that would have been a disaster of Derrick Rose proportions. And we all know how dumb people can get when they get on their Nike high horse.
Does all of this mean UA will overtaking Nike anytime soon? Not really, but it’s a nice goal to have. To come from where they started to be in a position where they have the most popular NBA player of the moment, the most high-profile NFL quarterback maybe ever and the PGA’s next rising star shows how much things have changed for the brand in just the past several years. And while Nike stans might disagree, the market is better when all brands are thriving and competing.