Many brands have a very long and fruitful history to look back on and a lot of the most well-known names of today have been around for decades. With athletic brands, some are largely specific to a particular sport, whereas others manage to span a wider spectrum. In recent years especially, Under Armour has become hugely successful and is now endorsed by athletes and sports teams all around the world. We take a look at where it came from and its present-day popularity in the latest ‘Brand Focus’.

Under Armour vest

The acorn of the Under Armour oak

The roots of the Under Armour brand can be traced back to American college football. In 1996, 23-year-old Kevin Plank founded the company after growing tired of filling his cotton T-shirts with sweat when playing for the football team at the University of Maryland. Plank was looking for the kind of material that would keep sweat away from the body and help performance in the process.

He eventually found a synthetic material he was happy with and got his ex-teammates to try out the shirts as well as asking them to give them to other players as they played professionally. Plank had been running the business from his grandmother’s basement but a USA Today cover featuring the Oakland Raiders’ Jeff George sporting the brand caught the eye. A number of university teams were suddenly interested and the apparel became roundly favoured by athletes as word began to get around.

The big-money deals started to flow and Under Armour was worn in the 1999 Al Pacino film ‘Any Given Sunday’ about an American football team. An advert in ESPN: The Magazine for $25,000 led to $1m in sales while a TV commercial featuring the slogan ‘protect this house’ became very widely remembered.

Product range

The selection of products available from Under Armour has increased considerably from the compression shirts originally sold. There are now running and basketball shoes, football boots, hoodies, polo shirts, shorts, leggings, underwear, jackets and a whole host of other accessories on sale.

Deals with soccer teams

The origins of Under Armour may lie in American football but it was a landmark moment when the brand announced a five-year agreement with Premier League (soccer) club Tottenham Hotspur in 2011. Under Armour replaced Puma as Spurs’ kit supplier at the beginning of the 2012/13 campaign and the deal was reported at the time to be worth around £10m per season.

Spurs are far and away the biggest club to have a deal of this kind with Under Armour but the brand can also be seen on the kits of top-level clubs Colo-Colo (Chile), Aris (Greece), CD Toluca (Mexico) and Jagiellonia Bialystok (Poland).

Athlete endorsements

Although it could never be said that Under Armour has athlete endorsement contracts on the scale of Nike or Adidas, they certainly have a varied roster on their books. From soccer, England and Tottenham defender Michael Dawson is joined by Queens Park Rangers striker Bobby Zamora and US Women’s National Team players Lauren Holiday and Heather Mitts (now retired).

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin are among the American footballers affiliated with the company. The baseball players with Under Armour endorsements include Toronto Blue Jays’ José Reyes, Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman.

The most successful Olympian of all-time, former swimmer Michael Phelps, is also signed up with the brand and so too are numerous other athletes. These include surfers, snowboarders, rugby players, skiers, speed skaters, tennis players, boxers, gymnasts and golfers.