Jan 11, 2011

When is a loss still a win?

[format] Last night, millions of viewers watched the Auburn Tigers squeeze out a win over the Oregon Ducks to win the BCS National Championship.  What viewers also saw was a clash between two apparel companies; Nike and Under Armour. [/format]

Oregon — with their custom made Nike uniforms, and Nike chairman Phil Knight, their omnipresent benefactor, came up 3 points short to the Under Armour-clad Auburn Tigers led by Heisman winning QB Cam Newton.

[format] Sounds like a victory for Under Armour and a loss for Nike, right?  Well…not exactly. [/format]

Under Armour received roughly $5.3 million in advertising exposure from the championship broadcast, $2 million more than Nike, with both teams receiving roughly 10 minutes of focused television exposure. (via Darren Rovell)  They also managed to purchase every billboard outside of the University of Phoenix stadium to increase their presence for those fans on-site.  The marketing plan, on its face, seems sound.  Actually, it was impressive.  Cam Newton was adorned in Under Armour logos, UA billboards were outside, and they received extended exposure on SportsCenter during the live interview session (see: Cam Newton and his Under Armour headband/fashionable choker).  Moreover, its quite fortuitous that Under Armour happened to sponsor the team that eventually participated in the National Championship.  UA hasn’t thrown a ton of money into the collegiate marketplace — University of South Carolina, University of Maryland, and Auburn — ranking outside the top 25 in NCAA apparel licensees, yet they were able to land the 14th most popular team (Ed. Note — not every team sells through the CLC.  Teams like Ohio State and USC do their own licensing, but a large majority of the NCAA is represented)…and that team went on to win a National Championship.

[format] Of course, don’t throw a pity party for Nike, they’re still doing just fine. [/format]

To understand why, you have to remember that Nike still has a stranglehold on every business in which they participate.  This is partially why they were so slow to move into the fast-growing “toning-shoe industry”, why they were seemingly willing to let Tom Brady go (he later signed an equity deal with Under Armour), and why, while they’re certainly watching the success of Under Armour with some interest, they are probably far from concerned.  Nike is the company that stole the show away from Adidas at last year’s World Cup, the company that was largely featured with Team USA basketball, and the company that signed an exclusive uniform/sideline apparel deal with the NFL last year.  Is Under Armour making great strides? Of course.  But Nike is still miles ahead of its younger competition.

[format] Need proof?  Nike brought in $20 billion in revenue from November 2009 to November 2010…Under Armour brought in a little under $1 billion in the same time span. [/format]

Need more proof?  The shirts and hats that the Auburn players were wearing after the game…Guess who makes those?

[format] Even though Nike took a “hit” in the apparel battle, they’re still clearly doing quite well in the war. [/format]

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