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Under Armour ends NFL contract, but holds on to endorsement deal with Super Bowl-bound Tom Brady

Four days before Under Armour endorser Tom Brady heads to his 10th Super Bowl, the Baltimore athletic apparel maker said it’s dropping an on-field contract with the National Football League.

But Under Armour also said Wednesday that it has no plans to end or change its endorsement deal with the legendary quarterback. Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Kansas City Chiefs for the title Sunday.

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Under Armour did not say when its NFL agreement expires, only that it has opted not to renew it. The agreement allows players to wear or display accessory products with the Under Armour logo during games.

“As a manner of business, we regularly review partnerships to ensure appropriate alignment with our strategic, operational and financial goals to best empower what we’re trying to achieve as a brand,” said Sean Eggert, Under Armour’s senior vice president for global sports marketing.

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A spokesman said the sports brand will not end or modify its endorsement contract with Brady, one of the highest-profile athletes in Under Armour’s roster. Brady’s wife, model Gisele Bündchen, had been signed to an endorsement deal as well until January 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady shows off Under Armour gear in this file handout photo from the Baltimore-based sports apparel company.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady shows off Under Armour gear in this file handout photo from the Baltimore-based sports apparel company. (Handout photo)

Long unmatched on the field, Brady left Under Armour rival Nike a decade ago. The November 2010 agreement with Under Armour gave him a stake in the company from the outset. The six-time Super Bowl champion has worn the brand’s apparel, including its football cleats and gloves, made appearances at its stores, been featured in its advertising campaigns and created his own line. He helped test the prototype for Under Armour “performance” sleepwear.

Under Armour, struggling with falling sales and stock prices even before the coronavirus pandemic, has looked to cut costs in marketing and elsewhere under Patrik Frisk, who took over as CEO from founder Kevin Plank in January 2020.

In May, Under Armour said it had been renegotiating athlete endorsers’ contracts in response to sharp drops in sales and demand for athletic apparel during the health crisis. The move came after Under Armour’s sales fell 23 percent and it reported a loss of $590 million in last year’s first quarter, as most of its stores around the globe were closed temporarily.

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As part of that retrenchment, Under Armour announced plans in June to back out of a record $280 million contract outfitting athletes with UCLA Athletics. The university then sued Under Armour. The brand still had more than $200 million left to be paid on a 15-year contract it agreed to in 2016. The deal had been one of Under Armour’s most aggressive efforts to boost its brand through an endorsement.

Under Armour also had been close to reaching a deal to outfit Major League Baseball players, but MLB instead signed an agreement with Nike that took effect last year.

The Baltimore brand remains in active conversations with the NFL, Eggert said. He said the company is working with the league to identify other opportunities for athletes and to ensure the best return on investment for Under Armour.

NFL athletes who endorse the brand still will wear some Under Armour apparel, without the branding, during games, the company said.

It declined to say when the contract would expire, whether some athletes would no longer endorse the brand or which products would no longer be worn on the field.

“We can share those details at a later date, but we’re committed to all of our athletes,” a company spokesman said.

As for whether other changes with athletic contracts are on the way, the company said only that it regularly reviews partnership in the course of business “to ensure appropriate alignment with our strategic, operational and financial goals to best empower what we’re trying to achieve as a brand.”

Under Armour shares rose nearly 5% in Wednesday trading to close at $19.49 each.

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