Two of Maryland's greatest self-made men of recent years — Under Armour founder Kevin Plank and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti — have taken the routine renewal of their companies' marketing agreement and are extending it to a combined philanthropic effort focused on Baltimore City schools and children. Both men see a healthy Baltimore as essential to the well-being of the state (and, not incidentally, their own success), and they say they want to do whatever they can to improve it. Their idea to combine "a little money, a little exposure and a little arm-twisting" to find ways of inspiring city youth and convincing others to join in their efforts has real potential. We encourage them to explore the possibility to the fullest.
The Ravens and Under Armour are two of the most recognized brands in this city, and both have tremendous appeal to Baltimore's youth. They have individually sought to leverage that through philanthropic projects like the renovation of athletic fields at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School (Ravens) and Dunbar High School (Under Armour), as well as assorted youth athletic camps and clinics. Under Armour is also working to provide a new computer lab at Dunbar. By working together, Messrs. Bisciotti and Plank say, they can do more and have more impact. Their belief is that the effect of their efforts will go beyond athletics by giving Baltimore youth a sense that someone cares about them, is willing to invest in them and believes they can succeed. As a side benefit, they figure that other local companies without quite so much brand-cachet will want to join their efforts for the benefit of the association.
Better athletic facilities and more interaction between city schoolchildren and Ravens players and coaches will not, of course, solve all of Baltimore's problems. By the same token, Baltimore's fortunes don't really rise or fall with what happens to the Ravens on a Sunday afternoon. But for many in the region, it certainly feels like it. Similarly, Under Armour and the Ravens can reach many youth that other organizations cannot. In an interview Friday with Sun editors and reporters, Mr. Bisciotti said he knows that many of his players came from tough backgrounds and had their lives turned around by even a single contact with someone who was successful and believed in them. Messrs. Bisciotti and Plank, and their organizations, have the credibility to do the same for others.
The two men did not put a dollar figure on their planned charitable activities, and they didn't announce any new initiatives. Based on the value of their previous efforts, we have no doubt that they will be substantial. The two men have a casual working relationship and a competitive nature — Mr. Bisciotti joked that the final terms of a naming rights deal for the Ravens training compound in Owings Mills depended on the outcome of a best-of-nine pool tournament. That suggests that they will make good on their word.
In order to reach the full potential of their partnership, we would encourage them to think even bigger. The one-school-at-a-time approach they have employed produces meaningful results. But we hope that in the years ahead, they can begin to assess the city's needs more broadly and challenge other individuals and corporations to join them in tackling those problems comprehensively.
Messrs. Bisciotti and Plank are winners, and their commitment to Baltimore is infectious. The two men aren't shy about setting big goals for their businesses — Mr. Plank's to become a global brand on the order of Reebok or Nike, and Mr. Bisciotti to win another Super Bowl. If they bring that same kind of audacity to their philanthropic work, others will follow.