Talk of A$AP Rocky signing with Under Armour has been circulating since May, and now the info is being made public by several sources. Rocky has been brought on to help revive the Under Armour’s UAS concept, a higher-priced and more exclusively distributed sub-brand.
In addition to the rumor about Rocky, we have also head Under Armour is working with Vice‘s in-house ad agency, Virtue Worldwide, which has been tasked with redesigning the UAS logo (possible a heart monitor line), but more importantly, upping the brand’s cool quotient.
This won’t be an easy task because Under Armour is viewed as a performance brand whose biggest fan base has always been suburbanites, all of which is problematic because the formula for building cool begins with city-based sneaker culture.
When Under Armour first launched, it benefited from the tailwinds of a very strong performance cycle, which enabled it to rapidly expand driven by the demand for its then innovative stretch apparel. Now that growth has shifted over to more lifestyle product (a cotton-based-product with a more relaxed fit), Under Armour is like a fish out of water.
Hard to believe, but it was just over two years ago in February 2015 when Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank in an interview described Adidas as “our dumbest competitor.” Since that fateful statement, Under Armour’s stock price has dropped from about $38 to about $20 as the once high-flying brand has struggled to meet lofty growth goals and its footwear offerings within sneaker culture have become a running joke. Meanwhile, it was about that time that Adidas began its famous recovery, which Rocky briefly was a part of.
In terms of ability to influence, Rocky is meaningful though he’s still only one guy and part of the reason Under Armour has struggled with a city-based customer is because it’s always held sneaker culture at arm’s length. Even when it began to distribute its product to urban boutiques and chains, it went through The Foundation, an outside sales team, rather than build its own in-house urban team, an endeavor that was pulled within two years of it being launched.
It’s entirely possibly Rocky will enable Under Armour to get its foot in the cool kids’ door, but the company will not only need to be patient, but it will also have to make real changes to its company culture and hire an internal team that not only has expertise on sneaker culture, but also decision-making power.
Sneaker culture can smell authenticity a mile away and it’s not going to be swayed if the story begins and ends with an Rocky-fronted ad campaign and a handful of decent-looking shoes.