Interview with Under Armour’s Senior VP of Sports Marketing, Matt Mirchin.
Lately, Under Armour is going from a company under the radar to a brand visible everywhere. Perhaps that’s because the athletic outfitter is rapidly transitioning from being more than a base layer but to being a force in footwear and on-field professional and collegiate sponsored gear. For this NBA season, Under Armour unveiled their launch basketball collection, anchored by the Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Jennings. Cam Newton’s Auburn Tigers not only won the BCS Championship in head to toe Under Armour gear, but the Heisman Trophy winner also inked an official deal with the brand.
CounterKicks Creative Editor Megan Wilson sat down with Under Armour’s Matt Mirchin for a look at the fast growing sports brand. Matt is a 23-year industry veteran previously helping guide brands and marketing for the NBA, Champion and Russell Athletic. Now, under the post of Senior Vice President of Sports Marketing for Under Armour, Matt discusses here everything from UA’s current brand plans, athlete endorsements, growth of the brand’s footwear business, and where UA Basketball is headed in the future.
CounterKicks: Under Armour is making a lot of visible pushes in sports endorsements lately. What’s the feeling at Under Armour now? Is the mantra still humble and hungry?
Matt Mirchin: At Under Armour our growth has been great over the last fifteen years we’ve been in business. We went from zero to five million dollars our first five years. We went five million to four hundred million the next five years. And in the last five years we’ve went from four hundred million to breaking a billion this year for the first time. So our growth has been great, and what we try to do is affiliate ourselves with athletes and properties that really represent the brand. Brandon Jennings was our first basketball player and a great representative of the brand.
CK: How does Brandon Jennings represent Under Armour? What drew Under Armour to signing him in the first place?
Mirchin: One of the things we really like about Brandon is his swagger and his game. Our position in basketball is low, light and lethal and that really represents his game. We also like Brandon’s story. He’s different. He came from California, he went across the States to play ball in high school on the east coast, so that was a little bit different. And instead of going to college, he went over to Europe which was an enormous risk and he’s an underdog. So, we kind of consider ourselves to be an underdog so it was a good affiliation. We really believed in Brandon and he believed in us. Then when he got drafted as a lottery pick and came out in the seventh game of the season, scored fifty-five points, the fastest player to ever score fifty, he’s really just a great representative.
CK: Brandon was seen as an underdog, and in some ways Cam Newton was seen as a long shot when he first came to Auburn. Is that one of the reasons why Under Armour signed him?
Mirchin: Cam Newton is a phenomenal athlete. We believe he’s a breakthrough football player and we think he can redefine the position of quarterback. We loved what he did at Auburn and we think he can transition that and bring it to the NFL and we think he has the ability to transition the sport.
CK: Was Cam signed partially due to his personality?
Mirchin: He’s got a phenomenal personality. He’s got an infectious smile and really, Cam’s a winner. That’s something that we really value when we go after an athlete. Cam’s all about hard work, he’s all about winning.
CK: What does Cam’s endorsement contract entail in terms of actual product and as well as marketing?
Mirchin: One of the things we’re going to try to do is work with Cam and work with Auburn to come out with an Under Armour/Cam Newton/Auburn collection so hopefully that will come out for this fall. It’s to be determined. Cam has a really good sense of fashion, so one of the things we want to do with Cam is work with our product teams both in apparel, footwear and accessories and not only provide great product on the field for our athletes but take them off the field as well.
CK: Is Under Armour positioning itself to be both a performance and fashion brand? When I talked to Brandon when his shoe first came out, he wanted to ensure it was a stylish shoe. Is that something that Under Armour is trying to focus on going forward?
Mirchin: Our history and where we came from is really performance and authentic, everything we do either performs or protects. But we want to evolve as a company and take people off the courts and off the fields of America as well.
Continue to Page 2 for Matt Mirchin on Under Armour’s new MLB contract, potential multi-billion dollar footwear business, where UA Basketball is headed, and plans for new Basketball athlete signings…