OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens have officially teamed up with Under Armour, signing a 10-year contract with the Baltimore sports apparel giant that includes naming rights for the defending AFC North champions' training complex.
The Ravens' $34 million practice facility is now called the Under Armour Performance Center, which includes signage throughout team headquarters.
The partnership was built through the decade-long friendship between Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Under Armour president and CEO Kevin Plank, getting to know each other through former University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.
"They're the only ones that I would do it with because I'm proud of their brand," Bisciotti said. "I'm as proud of him and the Under Armour brand and what they're accomplishing as what I am with our concerned effort to put the Ravens at the top of the NFL. ..
The deal will also include partnering up on various community initiatives.
"It's the ability for us to lock two great Baltimore brands together and tell a terrific story," Plank said. "I think we have the ability to make each other better and build a better story."
The Ravens and Under Armour were both launched in 1996.
And both Bisciotti and Plank started their respective businesses from similar humble beginnings.
"The opportunity to get involved with a David in the Goliath game that he is playing against some of these big competitors of his intrigued me, because there is a parallel," Bisciotti said. " He started in 1996, the Ravens started in '96. I think something's come out that says we are the 23rd most-popular brand out of 32 teams. I don't know if that's good or bad. I'm glad we're not 30th and 23 is making tracks. We're the 23rd-largest TV market in the NFL.
"The opportunity to learn from this juggernaut and push the envelope and know what it's like to go try and beat competitors that are 10 times bigger than you intrigued me. I thought this is a big company and they're doing great things. They're going to get us out of our shell. They're going to make us rethink some things and take some chances, and really, that's how it got there."
Under Armour is already heavily involved in the NFL.
The company has several NFL athletes, including Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis as pitchmen for its popular commercials, and supplies cleats and gloves for players.
Under Armour, whose home office is in Locust Point in downtown Baltimore, is the official sponsor of the annual NFL scouting combine.
"I love the Under Armour brand and am proud that it is Baltimore-based," Bisciotti said. "They started with football wear that players wanted, and still do. They produce great products. Under Armour is the only partner for our training center. Their success has been off the charts, and this partnership will serve as a long-term platform that will showcase to the nation the best of what two of Baltimore's strongest companies have to offer."
Added Plank: "I think with a franchise with as storied of a history, particularly as storied of a recent history with the only team in the NFL going to the last four playoffs and winning in each one of those tries, is that we're thinking, 'What's the DNA we can bring that can help us all break through?' Because we see Under Armour in the same way; we feel like we've gotten to the big game, we're there, but we're still learning as a company, we're still learning how to win that big game. So, when we think about the way that we'd like the company, is that to advantage ourselves by frankly, partnering and saying that we're twice as strong with, we think, two very important, I think the Ravens being maybe the most important sports brand in our town,and the way that that adds to what we're doing and building here."
Under Armour is the title sponsor for a free clinic at McDaniel College on June 16 where Ravens coach John Harbaugh and his assistant coaches will work with over 400 Carroll County youth football players.
The Ravens and Under Armour are also launching an annual flag football tournament that includes registration of 72 schools and over 1,400 students.
And the Ravens and Under Armour have both been heavily involved in building and improving local athletic fields at various Baltimore schools.
"I think Kevin and I got here not really because of this facility,we really got there because we are out in this city doing things," Bisciotti said. "Obviously, it's football-centric, it's health-centric, it's children-centric, and we're constantly running into people that are making a pitch to us, and then making a pitch to Under Armour. We like them knowing that we're willing to invest in these cities and take some of these atrocious football fields and put lights in and new stands in and synthetic turfs. So, we're playing the same game. We really feel like one plus one can equal three if we do this right, and we can have them make presentations to us.
"If I drove by Mervo and it said, 'Built by Ravens and Under Armour,' I'd be just as proud. I don't need the exclusivity. Whether we end up collectively turning our investment into more money, that's kind of probably going to happen because of the synergy and the deals that are going to be brought our way. I think bringing two brands together that all Baltimoreans are proud of, to get out there and maybe bring a little bit more to the table, I think it will be fun to do."
Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.