AT AN EVENT lastweek to launch Under Armour's first line of running shoes, the company's seniorvice president for brand, Steve Battista, said the marketing campaign wouldbegin on Jan. 1, 2009—"at 12:01 a.m." He's hardly exaggerating. Adswill air on postmidnight shows on MTV and on that day's bowl games on ESPN.Battista promises a "blitzkrieg" of publicity (a panoply of TV andprint ads, a Times Square billboard), saying of Under Armour's strategy,"Patience and subtlety are not really in our game plan."
Behind the slogan"Athletes Run," Under Armour is taking a novel approach, targeting notjust niche runners but also athletes who run as part of a wider trainingregimen. Shoe companies have traditionally built a base with runners first, but13-year-old Under Armour—which expects to bring in about $750 million this yearas what Battista calls "the tight T-shirt company"—will flood themarket, selling in sporting goods stores as well as in runners boutiques."As far as I know, no one's ever done it that way," says Warren Greene,shoe guru for Runner's World.
Under Armourbegan selling football cleats in 2006, baseball cleats in '07 andcross-trainers in '08. Running shoes are an obvious next step, accounting for30% of sales in the U.S.'s growing $19 billion athletic shoe industry,according to the market research company NPD Group. But making inroads with thehigh-mileage runner is tricky.
"Runners arefussy," says Chris McCormack, the 2007 Ironman world champ and an UnderArmour spokesman. McCormack helped create the shoe line, which offers sixmodels (four for the road, two for the trail) that will retail for between $85and $120. Each has a synthetic "cartilage" for support beneath the footand a sleeve to keep the foot dry. "They didn't screw it up," saysGreene, who's tested the line. "I mean that as a compliment."
In the lastdecade only Brooks and Mizuno have grabbed a significant market share fromveterans such as Asics, Nike and Saucony in catering to dedicated runners. WithUnder Armour's loyal youth market, high name recognition and that unprecedentedmarketing strategy, the tight T-shirt company hopes to be next.
Projected 2008 revenue for 13-year-old Under Armour.
Price range for its first line of running shoes.
RICK MAIMAN/AP (SHOES)