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Jordan Spieth boosts Under Armour with dominant Masters win

Under Armour's investment in golfer Jordan Spieth is paying off big time this weekend in Augusta, Ga.

Under Armour’s logo was on his hat, his shirt — the chest, the sleeves and collar — and even on his belt buckle. The only thing he wore on TV all weekend that didn’t sport an Under Armour logo was the famed green jacket.

The Baltimore-based sports apparel brand got a lot of free commercial airtime this weekend thanks to Jordan Spieth, who became the second-youngest golfer to win The Masters tournament, shattering records along the way while decked out in more than a dozen Under Armour logos.

The performance of the 21-year-old, up-and-coming golf superstar — signed by Under Armour as a relative unknown in 2013 — likely will pay off for the company for years to come, experts said Monday.

Under Armour lost no time capitalizing on the event, immediately highlighting the golfer on its website under the heading, “The Jacket Is His,” with links to shop golf apparel and buy styles Speith had worn.

In an interview with ESPN, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank called Spieth’s win a “pinch me” moment.

“Thanks to Jordan, our company grew up today,” Plank told ESPN. “This is a global event, and he’s the leading trending athlete in the world right now.”

Sam Poser, an apparel stock analyst with Sterne Agee in New York, said in a report Monday that Spieth’s victory will help elevate the Under Armour brand on a global level.

“We believe that Spieth has just become the next American face of golf,” Poser wrote.

And that face will be everywhere for a while, starting with a planned appearance Monday on Late Show with David Letterman. If Spieth sports an Under Armour shirt, “that's a whole new demographic seeing the brand,” Poser said in an interview. “This is about brand positioning.”

Besides that, Spieth will bring the credibility of the world's No. 2 ranked golfer to Under Armour's emerging golf apparel and shoe line, analysts said.

“It gives Under Armour an instant credibility within the golf space with a mainstream audience that pays attention to The Masters,” said Matt Saler, director of sports marketing for Baltimore advertising and marketing firm IMRE. “It brings their golf line and golf apparel front and center in an international spotlight,” in a category that's been dominated by rivals Nike and Adidas.

“This is the first time [Under Armour] has sponsored a golfer that won a major championship, and he's draped head to toe in Under Armour, which is unique in golf,” Saler added. “It really makes Under Amour arrive on the golf apparel scene.”

Under Armour, which has partnerships with Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, Bryce Harper and dozens of other high-profile athletes, showed off its line of hats, polo shirts, belts, pants and shoes through Spieth. The golfer spent the entire weekend atop the leaderboard.

The runner-up last year, Spieth set a 54-hole record this year and won by four strokes on Sunday over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose and six over world No. 1 Rory McIlroy. Tiger Woods, who was a little younger than Spieth when he won his first masters in 1997, finished 17th, 13 shots behind Spieth.

His “monumental performance is a tribute to his unyielding will, determination as an athlete, and his commitment to be the best,” Under Armour said Monday in a statement, calling the victory “a transformational moment for the game and for our brand.”

The company appears to be employing a strategy it’s used successfully in other non-core sports apparel categories: Identify an emerging athlete, then rely on that athlete to help introduce and promote new products, said Auburn Bell, affiliate professor of marketing at Loyola University.

In the golf world, that's more cost effective than sponsoring a major tour or high-profile athlete, he said. After initially signing Spieth, Under Armour extended its endorsement deal with him for another 10 years in January, saying it hoped for dominance in the golf category. The deal likely had built-in incentives tied to winning a major tournament.

Under the agreement, Speith can only wear Under Armour, head to toe.

During the tournament, “he was a walking billboard in an indirect way for Under Armour,” Bell said. “There were no mixed messages.

“It really drives home the point of a true and deep partnership,” he said. “The real win-win for Under Armour here is the fact that this is a 21-year-old young adult, and if he continues to do well in golf, Under Armour has someone who's going to bring benefit to the brand and product work not for a couple of years, but a couple of decades.”

Spieth, who turned professional in December 2012 at age 19, has finished in the top 10 on the PGA Tour 18 times and was the youngest runner up in the history of the Masters Tournament in 2014.

“I’ve really enjoyed being on this journey with Under Armour since turning professional, and I can’t wait to accomplish great things together in this next phase of my career,” Spieth said in the announcement extending his deal.

The next phase already may have arrived — both for Spieth and his apparel sponsor.

sjwelsh@baltsun.com

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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