sports marketing

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Under Armour is introducing two new sneaker designs (May I call them sneakers?) this week in an attempt to increase its share of the $22B athletic footwear (sneakers) market.  A market, by the way, that was only about $3B in 1993.  The TV campaign handled by Twofifteen McCann and Digiteria for digital offers a lot of smart tactics: the director of Friday Night Lights, a YouTube takeover to reach the younger buyers, limited distribution to build demand, Cam Newton, and an idea that ties sneakers to sports action – FootstepsAs smart as these tactics are, they feel like a pastiche of forced-together marketing tools from an Effie Awards Annual. I suspect they will work, however.

First and foremost though, one must ask if footwear is a business Under Armour wants to be in.  I say no. And I’ve said so before in WTI.  Sunglasses? No as well. UA founder Kevin Plank, in his heart knows this.  He owns a franchise that is now being diluting.  You can’t keep sticking the same tea bag in new water.  The company already owns fast twitch muscle, form fitting wicking shirts but will lose that ownership as it takes its eyes off the ball. Wicking sneaker tops?  Not so sexy.  Lindsey Vonn. Oh yeah.

Mr. Plank’s next move should be into form fitting shorts and shirts for the fashion conscious market.  Leave the kicks to Nike.  Or start a new footwear endemic company  This is one brand extension that might sell some shoes near term, but is going to turn Under Armour into a brand in decline overall.  And it’s sad.  Stop playing with feet! Peace.

(Picture from NY Times.)

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Back in the day, I met my pops at a NYC restaurant his ad agency (Poppe Tyson) worked for…Mike Manuche’sMeetcha at Manuche’s was the ad line. My dad introduced me to Red the Bookie.  Red gave me some advice which has saved me lots of money over the years: “Kid, don’t ever bet on anyone but yourself.”

I had a meeting this week with a high-up marketing executive at a professional NY sports team. The exec asked me if I had any experience consulting in the sports and entertainment business.  I did my normal hominah hominah, told him about work for the St. John’s Red Storm, then jumped into a discussion of the NY Knicks silly marketing line “You. We. Us. Now.”

But what strikes me about the marketing guy’s inquiry, and what is perhaps part of the problem for this and other franchises, is the notion that they are partly in the entertainment business. Franchises that market like entertainers become so. It’s a trap one falls into when there is a history of losing. Similarly, marketers who talk about ROI all the time are the marketers who aren’t getting any.

Sport is sport. Ask an excitable parent hollering at a grade school volleyball game. Who else would pay good money to see a circus where the tricks and stunts didn’t work or a Broadway play where the key characters die?  My marketing executive knew his team’s wins and losses define the product, yet he still tried to put fannies in seats using entertainment tactics.

Sports have changed over the years. Player loyalty is a thing of the past. But sports brands are built — even as living breathing things.  They are competitive in nature and their outcomes are driven by coaching, teamwork and players. If you root for the players as you root for your friends and family and you have a brand. Sports are different. Peace.

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Poor, poor New York Knicks.  They own and play in the world’s most famous arena.  They’re backed by a smart company that has more money and love (for them) than are most sports franchises, but when it comes to marketing they can’t find their fanny with their hands.


Co:, a new marketing company formed by Ty Montague and Rosemarie Ryan, most recently of JWT, touted the Knicks as one of their first clients.  How’s that coffee smell y’all?  What a mess they stepped into.  Today’s New York Times reports the new Knicks adverting effort is a five agency ass-grab, sans an idea.  Co: has really taken a small role, according to the article, with only a limited mention.  Stuart Elliot, the Times advertising writer, suggests the idea is “You. Us. We. Now.”  Is that an idea…or four? Is there an acronym for Cry Out Loud? 

Everyone interviewed in the article says the wrong thing. The story suggests tactics-palloza  — and there is a focus on “fan engagement” that is well-intended but laughable.


Last year the Knicks idea was “Declare.”  What they meant to say was “Represent” but that, I’m sure, was a bit too urban.  How can you be urban and not urban in one word?  

The creative this year focuses on the players because they are all new. Lazy. It should be focusing on the basketball void that has been NYC for years. Hear that sucking sound?  If you want some hoops in NYC this year get your shoes out to Carnesecca Arena. Peace!

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