Thursday, May 30, 2019

Under Armour converts energy to light at new pop-up lab | Advertising Age

Under Armour’s new UA Rush fabric claims to recycle the body’s energy during performance—and the sportswear brand is putting a lot of its own marketing energy behind the product.

Baltimore-based Under Armour will host an interactive pop-up performance lab for consumers in New York City this Friday and Saturday (May 31 and June 1). It’s also pushing out a 13-minute documentary featuring brand ambassadors Stephen Curry, Anthony Joshua and Kelley O’Hara—the film looks at how small details, like the fabrication of a shirt, can help improve athletic performance.

Under Armour debuted Rush, which it created with tech fiber company Celliant, last month. The fabric is infused with minerals that help absorb the heat that the wearer exerts during exercise and converts it back it into energy which is resupplied to the body. While many brands are focused on footwear innovation, including Under Armour’s own HOVR shoe, the Rush product is apparel, with prices ranging from around $35 for sports bras to $55 for pants.

“Leading with innovation is a really powerful platform,” said Attica Jaques, SVP of global brand management at Under Armour. “We started off thinking about [Rush] as a product for recovery, but realized it has benefits for when you are performing.”

The Soho pop-up shop will immerse consumers in a physical manifestation of the Rush technology. Visitors are treated to a welcome orientation video about how Rush works. They can then visit three zones. In Zone 1, step-up bocks and box jumps reveal how energy can be wasted by showcasing it on a screen projecting thermal heat maps. In Zone 2, consumers touch screens with light sensors as fast as they can in an exercise to reveal how energy can convert to light. The last zone includes augmented boxing gloves that light up sensors on impact.

The experience will also feature dressing rooms, point of purchase, photo booth and custom screen-printing press. On both mornings, Under Armour will host fitness classes at the activation.

The brand partnered with agency Giant Spoon for the experience—it is the first time the companies have worked together.

Under Armour’s film, “Margin of Victory,” follows the athletes ahead of big sporting events. Warriors player Curry is competing in the NBA finals this week, Joshua will box at Madison Square Garden on Saturday and O’Hara is training for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Under Armour worked with longtime agency partner Droga5 on the video and tapped Gotham Chopra to direct. Jaques said the video will be viewable primarily on YouTube in the U.S. and other platforms globally.

“There’s this real fascination with human potential and pushing the balance of performance,” said Chopra. He notes that as a documentary—new marketing ground for Under Armour—the video carries more authenticity and weight. Chopra also said it’s helpful that the athletes involved already have robust social media followings.

“It’s an elevated audience—people have already signed up to say, ‘I’m interested in this person,’ and that influences the storytelling in a way it pushes you farther,” he said.

After struggling in recent years to maintain momentum, Under Armour is beginning to see the effects of its turnaround strategy. For the first quarter ended March 31, the brand reported a 2 percent increase in revenue to $1.2 billion—results that exceeded analyst expectations. The brand’s focus on more premium pricing and improvements of back-end operations of inventory management are helping regain sales, according to John Kernan, a retail analyst at Cowen Inc.

“The brand’s cycle of innovation also appears to be benefiting from Under Armour’s sharpened go-to-market strategy,” wrote Kernan in a recent research report, noting that such efficiencies are “helping Under Armour to segment and allocate its new launches better with improved timing and pricing accuracy, resulting in less promotions and higher full-price sell through.”

Jaques said the brand is planning more immersive experiences to showcase its technology—nothing compares to having consumers experience products for themselves, she added.


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