Under Armour designers first took aim at the federation's uniforms, which hadn't been updated in more than a decade and looked third-rate compared with those of Olympic powerhouses Germany and Russia.

And when Speedo got out of the speed suit business in 2010, Under Armour took on the task of building a better speed suit.

"We felt we could come in and stake a claim for innovation," said Hanna. "We're a company about making athletes better, and this was a perfect platform to do it on. The high visibility of the Olympic Games and the high visibility of bobsled in the Olympic Games, we felt like it was a good investment and a good partnership."

At Under Armour's "innovation lab" staff members designed and tested fabrics for speed suits, working within International Olympic Committee standards. Samples were put through a wind tunnel to measure aerodynamic properties. Athletes weighed in with their likes and dislikes.

"The fastest material in the world, it turns out, isn't very breathable and doesn't stretch, so it's not much of a help to us," said Steven Holcomb, who, as the best U.S. bobsled driver, has won an Olympic gold medal and four world titles in the past three years.

In the end, they settled on a fabric used in the company's ColdGear line of apparel that was stitched into one-piece garments adorned in stars and stripes — "a Captain America look," Hanna called it.

"They give us a competitive advantage," said Holcomb of the speed suits. "If you get one-hundredth of a second on each of four runs, that's a lot, that can be the winning margin."

Wearing a top-flight brand makes the athletes feel good, too.

"When we won the gold," Holcomb said, "we looked like champions."

And in every picture of that snow-swept moment was the Under Armour logo.

Despite recent success, "it's a tough sell on the best of days," Offit said. "Most people see bobsled as a once-every-four-year occurrence and they don't even know what skeleton is."

Schaaf is working on building a consistent message and a brand that boasts speed, power and a bit of danger. And he is making lists of potential sponsors that could benefit from a partnership with the federation — perhaps one with a product made in America or a company that's expanding to Europe.

"We're under a lot of pressure," Schaaf said. "The athletes have done the heavy lifting, and the board is on a mission to pass them and give them the tools they deserve. We want to double the budget and get long-term deals so that there's no panic. We want sponsors who get the passion of this sport."

Such as, for example, the Ravens and their owner, Steve Bisciotti.

Coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron flew to Utah before the 2010 Olympics for a bobsled ride with Holcomb and to give the team a pep talk. The Ravens, in turn, invited the bobsled team to tour The Castle, the Ravens' training facility.

"We'd love a Ravens sled," Schaaf said. "Black and purple."

  • Text TERPS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Terps sports text alerts