The American bobsledders sat at Under Armour headquarters during a visit this week and watched a promotional video for the brand on a giant screen.
Set to music, the video showed successes of Under Armour athletes – company ambassador Tom Brady leading the New England Patriots to a comeback Super Bowl victory, endorser Stephen Curry winning another NBA championship ring, South Carolina women winning the NCAA basketball title.
But the video also chronicled struggle. There was Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, who signed with Under Armour a dozen years ago, showing a long scar from one of her many injuries. And there was a clip of news reports about Under Armour’s own difficulties in 2017.
It was a trying year for the brand as years of eye-popping growth in sales, profits and stock value skidded to a halt. The company reported losses for two consecutive quarters and the stock price plunged. The turnabout was driven by the loss of key wholesale customers, intense competition from rivals, slumping demand and changing consumer tastes.
It may surprise some that a video shown to guests on Under Armour’s oversized “Make You Famous” wall would note the company’s tough times. The guests were members of the U.S. Olympic bobsledding team who were there to model their Under Armour-designed speed suits and other gear.
But Under Armour has long cast itself as an underdog. It is fond of telling stories of athletes’ challenges and redemption. A 2017 video campaign for Vonn – who missed the 2014 Olympics because of a serious knee injury – featured this line from the skier: “I’m strong because of everything I’ve been through.”
Now it appears Under Armour has doubled down by casting itself in a starring role about what it hopes will be its own comeback of sorts.
“Nothing great ever happens without a bit of friction,” Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank says in the video.
That appears to practically be a slogan for the company in 2018.