In an article I read earlier today on Soul Collector, Puma discussed their positive growth and increasing brand awareness when it comes to basketball gear and shoes. Analysts estimated this growth was mainly due to the number of endorsers and share of market that Puma has been able to stake out. Brands like Puma and New Balance have recently positioned themselves as a viable competitor in the basketball industry and are making moves in the cultural zeitgeist to be seen as “cool” . Before Kawhi Leonard released his shoes, New Balance was a brand that many considered to be a joke in the basketball space, even talking negatively about the brand when Kawhi joined. Now they are beginning to prove those people wrong, and they are making some smart marketing decisions, such as having Kawhi display new shoes at huge events like the playoffs and All-Star game to generate hype pre-release. Even now Kawhi’s shoes the Omni 1’s are reselling for twice their retail price on sites like GOAT and StockX showing how much the hype and the draw of an athlete like Kawhi has proving the brand of the shoes almost doesn’t matter. Almost.
Under Armour has a lot of potential within the basketball industry, but they’ve been missing key opportunities to advance their brand. All-Star weekend was held in Chicago this year and Adidas, Nike, Jordan, Puma all had events in the city, but what did Under Armour do? Nothing. They have Joel Embid, a talented and gregarious athlete, on their roster and they did not take an opportunity to showcase their product on one of their star players. This was a huge missed opportunity. You already have Joel on contract, it wouldn’t cost anything to have him wear his signature shoe during the game in order to gain hype and draw attention to the brand that was missing arguably the face of the brand in Steph Curry who was sidelined with an injury.
Three major things UA needs to do:
1. Curry 8s/9s need to have ongoing conversation with Steph about what direction to take with these shoes. 8s should play off the 7s, something like Comeback, Return, Rise (something like that), to go with him coming back from injury. Bring it out with at least three releases, things like a Warriors colorway, a Bay Area/Oakland colorway, NC Colorway. Also need to come out with a variety of bold colorways that invoke something personal to Curry.
2. UA needs to adapt to the changing climate by embracing athleisure. An easy way to do this is to build off the Curry line and use Ayesha Curry’s social presence as a way to do this, Gisele Bündchen would be great to include too. Continue to bring in more sizing for girls for every shoe (like what Steph did last year), and create more messaging around women’s basketball
3. Take advantage of opportunities for free advertising such as playoffs and All-Star events. Build up more hype pre-release simply by having athletes wear their shoes at big events. As I said before Joel Embiid should’ve introduced his shoes during the game and UA should’ve had a meet and greet with their players at the flagship store in Chicago. Over the summer there should be a number of Instagram posts by both Curry and Embiid showing off glimpses of their signature shoes in order to entice the sneakerhead audience.
There is a sign of positivity in the recent branding of Curry’s Sour Patch Kids line. This allows for creativity and personality from the athlete, showcasing something they are into in a big, bold way, another colorway of the Curry 7’s was featured in the celebrity all-star game that Famous Los wore that was met with a lot of fanfare. You need to have bold colorway options to get noticed and differentiate your product, and this was a great way to do that.
While this is a step in the right direction, UA isn’t doing enough to adapt to the times and isn’t demonstrating they understand the cultural landscape of this industry. I want this company to do well, but they keep getting in their own way by missing opportunities like showcasing their shoes at All-Star Weekend, expanding the Curry line to include more athleisure (Ayesha could be a promoter here), and showing more unboxings with Steph (beyond just the first colorway), to name a few.
The more UA refuses to adapt to the changing client, the more they are pushing themselves towards failure. They need fresh ideas and if they don’t take them, someone else will.