'Welcome ad' not so welcome

Baltimore Sun

The huge Under Armour logo recently added to the hillside of Federal Hill Park to welcome volleyball players has angered some residents, who say the advertisement detracts from the aesthetics of the historic neighborhood.

"It's hugely disrespectful," said Paul W. Robinson, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. Since the logo was added Thursday night, Robinson said, he has received about 40 phones call and at least as many e-mails from residents upset by the advertisement. Had the company paid for the display, Robinson said, he might think differently about the black-and-white graphic with the words "Protect this house" underneath.

The city has not received money from the sportswear company, according to Michelle Speaks-March, a spokeswoman for the Department of Recreation and Parks. She said the department agreed to the logo because the company is a "very good corporate sponsor" for the parks department, with the Tree Baltimore campaign and with cleanups.

"It's a fun thing," Speaks-March said, saying the logo painted on the grass "just highlights our business, and it's good for Baltimore."

She said Under Armour wanted to put the logo up at the same time as the Northeast Qualifier for the East Coast Volleyball tournament. at the Baltimore Convention Center, which ends Sunday.

While a spokeswoman with Under Armour said the company is not a corporate sponsor of the event, Speaks-March said she was told that the timing for the ad was designed to "welcome" the athletes to Baltimore.

"It's consistent with what we are about - recreation," she said.

Erin Wendell, spokeswoman with the company, said the logo is a part of Under Armour's new campaign to "promote in our own backyard."

She said the paint is water-based, and that the logo will last at most a couple of weeks, until the grass is cut.

Speaks-March said she was unaware that residents were upset, adding that she had received compliments after a purple Ravens decal was put up in December.

While Robinson, a Ravens fan, said he liked the Ravens logo, he said the Under Armour ad is too commercial. He said no one from the city reached out to the community association.

"I don't think people should buy Under Armour until this is taken away," he said. "Would they do this to Bunker Hill?"

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