So if you were like one of the millions of people out there watching the Chinese livestream (because we still haven’t figured out streaming apparently) of today’s reveal of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, you probably were wondering if that was really Kevin Durant who was standing in the middle of the front row. Well, the above Instagram pic by Durant should ease your mind because it was him…
What could this mean for Durant and Apple? Was KD just there as a guest because he was in the area maybe to work with 2K Sports on NBA 2K15 (2K is located in Marin County)? Or could Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports be lining up their biggest client to hook up with Apple a la what LeBron James has with Samsung? Stay tuned…
Sneakerheads around the world rejoiced last week when they found out that Nike had matched and surpassed Under Armour’s offer for Kevin Durant. For much of August, the buzz was all about Under Armour and how they were going to change the sneaker game by bringing on somebody like Durant, only one of the most popular athletes in the
US world today. Some were for the move because it would have been our first real look at some sort of competition among the top athletes and brands (even as the market share remained lopsided in Nike’s favor) while others were not ok with KD moving on. Alas, it was not to be as Nike would bring back Durant to the fold, but for $150 million more than they had hoped. With signature sneakers already becoming as costly as they are, one can only imagine what kind of impact this new deal will have on KD’s Nike products moving forward.
But Under Armour was not done making news. After the Durant courtship ended, Under Armour announced they had signed supermodel Gisele Bundchen to lead up their growing women’s line alongside ballerina Misty Copeland, skier Lindsey Vonn and surfer Brianna Cope. Then before the weekend hit, it was reported that Under Armour had surpassed adidas as the #2 sportswear brand in the US, with $1.2 billion in sales so far this year compared to $1.1 billion for the three stripes. Sure, that’s a paltry number compared to Nike’s $8.9 billion, but 10 years ago Under Armour was mostly known for their decently priced gear and as the official outfitter of the XFL (remember that?). That’s a “started from the bottom” moment if there ever was one.
They might not have gotten their man, but the message was clear: Under Armour is gunning for that #1 spot no matter the cost.
The chase for Durant was a watershed moment for the Baltimore-based brand; after years of being primarily known as an apparel company, they were willing to break the bank for the reigning NBA MVP and take a genuine stab at basketball footwear, a category that Nike has dominated for decades. One has to imagine that CEO Kevin Plank is reveling in all of this attention that his company got from the Durant courtship. And I doubt he’s crying over the potential loss of sneakerheads who were cheering Durant’s return to Nike. He’s got bigger fish to fry…
By signing Bundchen, Under Armour is looking to open things up and get people out of thinking that their brand is just for the hardcore athletes. They want the soccer moms, the gym fanatics and the weekend warriors all on board with Under Armour. Bundchen’s profile and input will also give Under Armour a stylish edge and a fanbase that even Nike doesn’t have, no matter what we think of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Durant coming over to Under Armour would have been a game-changer for sure, but the cost and pressure to deliver would have been damn near insurmountable. By letting Nike pay a pretty penny for Durant, this ends up being a very good publicity play for Under Armour because if you’re a top-level athlete that is either looking to make a switch or a rising star in the college ranks, you might think twice before signing that low-level Nike contract where you get nothing more than free kicks every once in a while. Personally, whoop-de-damn-doo. While my preference would be to have a Nike contract like Durant’s, I’d rather be Stephen Curry forging a legacy of my own with Under Armour than be a mid-tier guy at Nike wearing mid-tier kicks with my logo on it.
While they still trail adidas on a global scale, getting that #2 spot in the US is a huge win for Under Armour. They have the right products and the right roster to pitch those products. And with adidas losing ground just about everywhere (they’re being called an “underdog” in some circles now), this is the time to strike. While they don’t have is a strong lifestyle category, something that adidas dominates (at least perception-wise) with their Originals brand, that will come in time because right now it’s hard to imagine rocking a casual sneaker with that UA logo on it, no matter how dope it might look.
A few years ago, there was a rumor floating around that Nike was looking to buy Under Armour, but UA declined in a “nah, we’re good” moment. If that’s the case, then maybe the swoosh saw potential there and they were going to squash it and bring it under their umbrella before it had a chance to grow and compete with them. Will we see Under Armour surpass Nike in our lifetimes? Sure, why not? I haven’t used an Android phone in three years, but I think it’s great when Samsung goes there and has the guts and the money and the tech to go head-to-head with Apple. That means Apple can’t be content to just crap out new a iPhone with minimal upgrades and expect the casuals to go and buy it. So in the sneaker world, I would love nothing more than two (or three if adidas can get their sh*t together) brands battling it out for supremacy in market share. That means better quality (no, I don’t mean retros) products for us at competitive prices. Under Armour already delivers that. They just need to figure out a way to make up that $7.7 billion difference with Nike. No big deal, right?