Gisele is not an athlete.” “Is modeling now a sport?” Those were just a few of the reactions to last week’s announcement that supermodel Gisele Bündchen is the newest addition to Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign, which also features such superstar female athletes as skier Lindsey Vonn, soccer player Kelley O’Hara, tennis pro Sloane Stephens, and ballet dancer Misty Copeland.
The responses didn’t surprise the athletic-gear giant. In fact, they were included as social media banter in a 60-second campaign video, featuring Bündchen, which was released at the start of New York fashion week. This one was also in there: “Under Armour! WTF?”
But really, though, WTF?
Up until fairly recently, Under Armour didn’t make women’s clothes (it sold a men’s size small to women) and has been historically “just for athletes.” Make no mistake: The company is still going after pro athletes, with more force than ever before. (Just look at its current war with Nike for NBA star Kevin Durant; or the $90 million it is spending to outfit Notre Dame’s football team this season, a deal that used to belong to Adidas.)
This week it was announced that the Baltimore-based brand overtook Adidas this year for the number-two slot in highest footwear and apparel sales. Nike remains number one. But with its huge play for the women’s market (a space dominated by brands like Lululemon) and the highest-paid model in the world on its team, it could be anyone’s game for the taking. Meanwhile, the Bündchen video, which has been out a little over a week, has received more than 1,563,562 hits on YouTube.
We touched base with Under Armour’s SVP and executive creative director, Leanne Fremar, to find out what’s next on its global takeover agenda, why Gisele, and what other supermodels the brand is going after. Here’s what she had to say.
Why Gisele? I realize she is certainly athletic, but she is not a professional athlete like the rest of the campaign stars.
Gisele is the latest addition to our constellation of Women of Will, as we call them, but she is not the only story. We wanted to feature a story about an athletic female, a woman who is obviously very well regarded in her field and also an incredible mother, wife, sister, philanthropist, daughter, etc. We just thought she would be an interesting choice.
Are you going after more top models or women of influence in the fashion world?
We don’t have further plans to feature any additional professional models. We want to highlight women from a diverse group of backgrounds.
How is the campaign affecting women’s sales?
We have seen an incredible increase in sales. Lots of items featured in the campaign are doing really well, like the Eclipse Bra Gisele wears in the film and the Seamless Plunge Sports Bra that Misty Copeland has on. The printed leggings are also getting a terrific response. And the Speedform shoe Gisele wears has been doing extremely well in all colors.
Was it intentional to make this announcement during New York fashion week? What was the thought there?
Yes, we chose to reveal Gisele’s digital experience and 60-second film close to NYFW. We wanted to celebrate a very contradictory side of Gisele and also of Under Armour. She is seen at fashion week with full hair and makeup on the runway, which is not necessarily an image that you can relate to. We juxtaposed that Gisele to the one in the video, looking very raw and bare in a studio, where she is working out really hard and sweating and kicking and planking and really being herself. That was one contradiction. The other is that people have always thought of Under Armour as only a men’s brand or only an athlete brand. This was an opportunity to talk to women who enjoy sports and athleticism as part of their everyday lives as much as they enjoy things that come along, like fashion week. We knew people would have a strong opinion one way or another about Gisele and Under Armour.
As you probably know, a few of your competitors did presentations at fashion week this season. Is a presentation at NYFW the next step? Are you seriously looking into that?
It’s not something we are currently looking at, although never say never.