In Under Armour's new 60-second TV spot, ballerina Misty Copeland stands in the practice studio, slowly rising onto her toes as music plays and, in a voice over, a young girl reads a rejection letter explaining why the ballet academy candidate was turned down.
"You have the wrong body for ballet, and at 13 you are too old to be considered," the letter says. Copeland, attired in a black Under Armour tank top and the brand's "Cheeky" underwear bottoms, then is shown flying with grand jete leaps and rapid-fire spins across a vast lighted stage.
The ad, unveiled online today in Under Armour's biggest-ever campaign targeting women, zooms to a closeup of Copeland, a trailblazer as one of the only African American female soloists in the American Ballet Theatre's history. It ends by flashing the tagline, "I Will What I Want."
The nearly $15 million campaign -- one of three "brand holiday" events Under Armour plans each year -- is designed to underscore the athletic apparel maker's commitment to designing for female athletes and athletic females alike in the 18-to 34-year-old age range.
That consumer group is a particular target for Under Armour as it seeks to grow its $500 million women's business -- which now accounts for about 30 percent of apparel sales -- into a business that will someday rival or exceed its core men's business. It comes at a time when Under Armour is trying to reach more women by expanding distribution at places such as department stores, mall specialty stores and gym retailers.
"We are excited about the timing because of the growth we're seeing in the women's business," Leanne Fremar, a senior vice president and executive creative director for Under Armour Women's, said in an interview after the marketing campaign was launched in New York. "We've seen the women's business grow steadily since it was launched, and we believe there is demand in the marketplace for our product."
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank last week addressed what might seem like unusual timing for such a campaign, as back-to-school and the fall soccer and football seasons approach.
"Our women's business is healthy. Women are wearing more athletic products outside the gym," Plank said on an earnings conference call with analysts. "We're growing with her as she grows into new categories."
It might seem odd, he noted, that as fall sports seasons gear up, "big tough Under Armour decided to launch a women's campaign, with a ballerina, no less. This is the best use of our resources. The story of how Misty willed her way [into the ballet world] is compelling and reflective of the brand DNA."
The women's campaign, which will feature Under Armour athletes such as skier Lindsey Vonn, US Women's National Soccer Team standout Kelley O'Hara and tennis player Sloane Stephens, follows a campaign earlier this year that introduced Speedform footwear. The final marketing event, later this year, will center on the holiday season.
The women's campaign will highlight the entire women's line, from base layer products to studio shirts and capris to athletic shoes to coldgear infrared jackets, said Heidi Sandreuter, Under Armour's vice president of women's marketing.
"We want to make sure women understand that we've got a solution for all their needs," she said.
The campaign will feature "real moments of will" that each featured athlete has faced, such as Copeland's "rejection letter," which Fremar said reflects actual criticisms Copeland heard on her way to ballet superstardom.
The Copeland spot will debut on TV Monday, airing on ESPN, E!, MTV and ABC. It will be featured online via Glamour, Mode, People, Us Weekly and elsewhere.
One campaign feature will be interactive, IWILLWHATIWANT.com, a mobile application available on iPhone and iPod touch and coming later to other platforms. It will allow women to track their fitness and sports activity.
Watch the video here: http://www.underarmour.com/shop/us/en