I’ve hit Under Armour a lot in my past couple articles with some of their published issues and controversies regarding their corporate governance, pending legal cases, and lack of diversity within the company. I’ve also addressed the previous CEO’s lack of ambition in the athleisure space, something they are continuing to recover from. There’s also more competition in the market and athletes have more options for who they sign with. For this reason, designs have to be better, marketing has to be better, and strategy has to be solid.
Given my past criticisms, I have to give credit where credit is due with Curry launching his own brand. This is a big deal, the only other player to have his own line within a brand is Jordan with Nike, so it’s a rare thing. Not only does Curry have his own brand, he also has his own messaging focused on helping underserved communities. He’s committed to this effort and the brand has dedicated consistent funds towards the causes he supports. This amount is not capped, which differs from a lot of companies who have agreed to donating for a specific time period only. This move is a great step in trying to rectify the lack of funding and commitments that brands have held onto for far too long. With their annual revenue share it showcases their commitment to a long standing relationship with underfunded communities and organizations and hopefully encourages the umbrella brand, UA, to be more committed to their investment long term.
One of the most important things about this launch is that it’s a further step towards player/celebrity empowerment. Brands are beginning to recognize the importance of allowing their stars to have more representation and putting their money where their mouth is essentially. The subdivision brands will be powered by the star’s celebrity and market value but will also allow them to have a more active hand in the revenue share that goes to their communities and the organizations they support.
As these subdivision brands grow it is important they do not neglect a key issue their umbrella companies have – gatekeeping. This can slow growth of business with lack of diversity, lack of diverse thinking, and lack of innovation. For example, Adidas former CHRO said that racism is just “noise”. When HR was not committed to addressing diversity, I have to wonder how many doors were closed for people in the past. It has perpetuated for so long, I wonder how those brands will actually make significant and meaningful changes. If more athletes and celebrities start a subdivision brand, I hope that they take an active role in addressing these issues. I’m glad to see the Curry brand is focused on community and dedicated to supporting communities, and hope to see the brand address diversity within the company too.
Curry brand is sponsoring Davidson College, Steph’s alma mater. While it’s great to have the brand on their gear, what I’d like to see is some programs in place to have students intern with the brand, and be offered a pathway into the company. This would be an important step in removing the barrier of entry for so many people by allowing them to gain experience within the industry. It also shows the brand’s commitment to the community they plan to serve by having more inclusion in the company. As the brand continues to expand, they must recognize the mistakes their umbrella company, UA, has made especially when it came to their strategy of not being willing to invest more in athleisure wear. Steph is a member of the NBA family and as such must be aware of the numerous instagram pages dedicated to tunnel outfits. Many of which showcase athleisure wear, or what many call cozy fits. UA right now is facing a perception issue related to their non cool factor and a perfect way to start changing that narrative is to make better designed athleisure wear for Curry, his family, and Davidson students. By doing this you can showcase new designs and demonstrate how UA is committed to investing in the Curry brand’s strategy and goals.
What’s important about this new branding for Curry, is that it forces brands to further their communication and commitment with their athletes. It makes it clear to the athletes themselves that they have the power to effect change even if their sponsors don’t help. Hopefully this will help move the conversation to a point where companies are forced to evaluate their relations with the communities they claim to serve and the athletes who are from those communities.