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How Under Armour Crushes The Competition With Values Marketing

When Under Armour got its start in 1996, with founder Kevin Plank selling gear from his car, the market was already dominated by strong performance brands. It had to strike a chord with customers to make an impression, and fast. Flash forward to today. Under Armour has surpassed industry giants like Adidas, with $3 billion in sales last year alone.

Just as Under Armour began as the underdog in its category, it has also achieved much of its success through focusing on the shared values of determination with its top customers. Recent campaigns feature golf wonder Jordan Spieth, dancer Misty Copeland and football great Tom Brady. The brand refers to the campaign theme as the “human spirit which won’t allow itself to be denied,” and includes taglines such as ‘I Will What I Want’ and ‘Rule Yourself’.

Another recent TV ad features Gisele Bündchen defying supermodel stereotypes as she attacks a heavy punching bag while real-time social media criticisms flash across the walls. The spot won a Cannes Lions Grand Prix award, garnered 1.5 billion impressions and contributed to a 28% lift in sales, says its advertising agency.

Research from Zenzi confirms that Under Armour’s key audience is focused on values of Achievement over other primary values types—such as Purpose, Tradition, Freedom, Pleasure, and Security. Backed by decades of scientific research from renowned psychologist Shalom Schwartz and others, values serve as the guiding principles in the life of an individual. How we prioritize them influences our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, from where we live and work to the goods we buy.

Behavioral economists note that values form the baseline of our decision making. Indeed, rational considerations account for less than one-third of our decisions and behaviors (Gallup, 2014). Increasingly, brands like Under Armour are realizing the power of values marketing and are leveraging shared values to connect with customers.

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