On Monday, Under Armour announced the launch of the “Curry Brand” driven by the star power and unique popularity of NBA superstar Stephen Curry, a long-time Under Armour athlete. The two-time MVP and Splash Brother becomes just the third basketball player to have his own brand joining Michael Jordan and Dwayne Wade.
The shoe market is highly competitive with major brands such as “King” Jordan Brand, Nike, Adidas, and Reebok all hustling to corner the market and attach their brand to the elite performers in sports and entertainment.
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Curry Brand has been launched in an effort to connect with younger consumers and compete with the heavy hitters. The power move comes right on time, as Curry returns to the court for the first time since playing just five games in a 2019 season that saw Steph miss 58 games with a broken hand.
The new line will launch this week on CurryBrand.com and will feature shoes, and clothes for a variety of sports, including basketball and golf.
Over time the brand will expand to more categories to include running and a women’s line. The brand’s performance basketball line will be available on December 11, just in time for the holidays.
Under Armour Chief Executive Officer Patrick Frisk says, “We wanted to make this launch as close to the new season as possible, and to launch in between Black Friday and the holidays we believe is very opportune”.
He goes on to also say, “This gives Stephen something really to engage in …. he’ll be actively involved in the development of the product. And we’re so excited to see one of our athletes being so invoked in the product”.
Can Steph Help UA’s Sagging Teen Sales?
Curry, the star point guard for the Golden State Warriors, signed his deal with Under Armour in 2013. He’s won three NBA Championships with the “Dubs” and is the only “UNANIMOUS” MVP in league history.
From 2016-2018, Steph Curry had the highest-selling jersey in the NBA. He’s still arguably the most popular player in the sport. At 31 years old, most sports analysts and prognosticators have labeled him the greatest shooter to ever play the game, and with good reason.
Nike has maintained top-billing as the preferred apparel brand amongst teens for a decade. And for over a year, Under Armour has been at the very top of the list for brands “no longer worn” by teenage males.
Under Armour is banking on Curry’s popularity with the younger generation and his iconic NBA standing to manifest itself in higher sales.
Nike is still the top dog while Under Armour has fallen to 11th-place from ninth in a “Taking Stocks With Teens” report.
The brand’s image has also suffered from heavy discounting in department stores and other off-price chains. Its brand is typically associated with high-performance traits, coupled with intense activities, but shoppers have mostly been seeking out fashion when they shop for activewear.
This helps boost Lululemon and Gap’s Athleta in many ways.
In its last reported quarter, sales for Under Armour were just about flat from the previous year at $1.43B. In North America alone, sales fell by 5% to $936 million.
From 2018 to 2019, UA’s revenue rose 1% to $5.3 billion, while Nike has seen a much more steady climb. But in the fiscal year that ended on May 31, Nike’s business suffered emphatically with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they saw revenue fall 4% to $37.4 billion.
Jordan Brand has grown under Nike, and was created for former NBA superstar Michael Jordan, to bring in more than $3.5 billion annually, reaching consumers of the older and younger variety. They have even pressed the issue of expanding more to reach the women fan base.
A huge focus of Curry’s Brand is social activism and community improvement; making sure lower-income households have more access to sports. The company detailed a decline in youth participation in sports aided by the current pandemic, as one of the main factors to focus on this cause.
They will start this initiative in Oakland, as the newly lamented Curry Brand will work with the Oakland Unified School District to launch basketball at each middle school. In addition, it will be partnering with a non-profit organization, Positive Coaching Alliance, to bring professional coaching to all of the youth sports coaches in the area via seminars or coaching clinics.
Nike Dropped The Ball, Under Armour Picked It Up & Scored
This major move by Curry is monumental. If Nike hadn’t botched their meeting with Curry in 2013, Steph would be another legend in their stable of icons. After all, Curry was a Nike athlete long before that meeting, as his godfather Greg Brink works for the brand. So Steph grew up wearing the shoes and at Davidson sported the “Swoosh”.
Nike wasn’t serious about signing Steph, sending Nick Harrison a sports marketing director to the meeting instead of famed power broker Leon Merritt (LBJ Adviser). Word on the streets is, Harrison botched the entire presentation by first calling him Steph-on and never correcting it. The final straw came during the slideshow presentation and Kevin Durant slides popped up.
Under Armour used this to their advantage as they began sending a teammate of Curry’s (Kent Bazemore) tons of gear weekly to help persuade Curry into signing with them. His dad Dell advised him not to be afraid to try something new and the rest is history.