In an age when marketers are trying to become their consumers’ BFFs, Under Armour’s new ad campaign, Rule Yourself, has turned me off. In trying to appeal to Millennials, its most recent campaign takes a risk, adopting a forceful, parental tone that comes across as lecturing. I, for one, am not enamored.
The new campaign, Rule Yourself, (http://www.adweek.com/agencyspy/droga5-ny-launches-rule-yourself-for-under-armour/91768 ), stars powerhouses and Under Armour golden children Jordan Spieth and Steph Curry, along with Misty Copeland, whom Under Armour has helped put into the spotlight. The “hard-work pays off” message touted in their previous campaign is taken to a new level with the line, “You are the sum of all your training.” In the idea of an “army of you,” the company emphasizes the importance of self-determination, self-awareness and pure hard work. All good.
However, the Rule Yourself campaign is not an encouraging “this can be your dream” ad. Instead, Under Armour has chosen a “tough love” approach. For one, the campaign does not use your average everyday athlete, like Nike does in its ads, and instead chooses to showcase popular superstar athletes who dominate in their respective sports arenas (hello; Tom Brady). For another, the ad showcases the importance of repetitiveness and practice makes perfect, which reminds me of my parents trying to teach me an important life lesson. I can still hear them telling me to write out every word 100 times before a spelling test in grammar school or to take 1,000 free-throw shots a day before basketball practice.
Why this approach? Because they think we need it. According to Adrienne Lofton, Under Armour’s Global Brand Marketing Vice President, “The millennial and Gen Z consumer are very used to getting things right when they want it…What we want to remind them is that you don’t just get this — you have to work to get it. We wanted to show that greatness is showing up every day at 5 a.m. when everyone else is asleep. Steph Curry won the NBA championship and MVP because he trained every day, got up when he fell down, continuing to drive with all that unsexy work to achieve his goals.” (Business Insider)
Here’s my reaction to that. Rather than being supportive, the message and tone of the ad come across as strict, parental and almost lecturing. I resent Under Armour’s thinking that we need to be reminded of the importance of hard work to achieve our goals. In fact, I believe there is real danger in grouping an entire generation together and assuming that we are lazy and feel entitled to things. I do not believe that this lecturing will be well received and Ms. Lofton’s comments only infuriate me more. I imagine other Millennials will feel the same.
So I am left scratching my head, pondering why Under Armour, a brand whose campaigns I have loved and supported in the past, has decided to go all parental and harsh by calling out my generation. The only plausible reason I can think of is that the company is trying to differentiate themselves, trying to make a splash in an overcrowded Jacuzzi of athletic apparel companies whose clothing and apparel are all more or less the same. This attempt at differentiation, in my opinion, comes off as arrogant and unnecessarily forceful. Let’s just hope with their next ad campaign, Ms. Lofton and Under Armour leave out the lecturing and pettiness. Millennials after all are old enough to remember to brush their teeth before bed.
*Image courtesy of Under Armour