"I would venture to guess that Under Armour has accomplished exactly what it intended to accomplish — to get the media and people talking about the uniforms," said Howe Burch, executive vice president and managing director of Baltimore advertising agency TBC. "While there may be some controversy, it just heightens the awareness of what they're doing in the category."
And that is partly about creating a more eye-popping uniform than the last one while keeping two steps ahead of the competition.
"People used to care about the play on the field, and now they care as much about what the players are wearing," Burch said. Under Armour "has been very successful in getting a lot of attention around uniforms for football programs that are not that high profile. Nike started it with some very provocative uniforms they designed for the University of Oregon for [Nike chairman] Phil Knight's alma mater. Under Armour has taken that model and exploited it."
Bob Leffler, owner and president of Baltimore's Leffler Agency, said he believes it's unlikely Under Armour intentionally designed a veterans' tribute uniform to appear blood splattered. Jerseys feature "courage" and "honor" in place of players' names.
Leffler sees the Northwestern uniform design as the apparel maker's latest charge against its much bigger Oregon-based rival, Nike. There's the need to come up with something new. Plus, he said, something provocative garners attention for a university and can help somewhat in recruiting players.
"They're in a battle with Nike," he said of Under Armour, adding, if "you really want something different, you can't hem the designers in."
And, more and more, "The standard, basic uniform, you just don't see it."