Athletic wear ads and news

Under Armour Inc.’s ad in last month’s Super Bowl ended with a phrase, “We are Under Armour. The future is ours.” The phrase was widely considered to be aimed at Nike.

Nike’s response? A 60-second ad for competing cross-trainer shoes with the opening line, “My better is better than your better.”

With that, the latest sneaker war reaches the battlefield. Nike this week flexed its better-financed marketing muscle by launching perhaps its broadest multimedia campaign ever, focused on a new line of shoes in an otherwise dying cross-training category.

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Nike’s ad blitz features a Web site offering interactive advice from certified trainers; a 60-second spot airing on TV’s most popular show, “American Idol”; and, for the first time, professional lacrosse players. Its new line — which Nike now calls “performance trainers” — looks starkly different from its predecessors or competitors’ midtop designs.

The moves, analysts say, are aimed at countering Under Armour’s entry into shoes and deflecting the Baltimore company’s influence among teenage sporting goods consumers.

“This was definitely an all-out attempt to stop Under Armour in its tracks,” said John Horan, publisher of trade newsletter Sporting Goods Intelligence. “They want to make sure they don’t get surprised on this category.”

Under Armour made a name for itself offering athletes a tight-fitting, synthetic T-shirt that wicked away moisture. The so-called compression apparel quickly became a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, one that 13-year-old Under Armour still leads.

More recently, Under Armour entered the relatively small cleated-shoe market, grabbing a surprising one-fifth of the football shoe market and one-tenth of baseball shoes, each in less than a year.

This year, Under Armour is trying on noncleated cross-trainers, a category that makes up 6 percent of the nation’s $20 billion athletic footwear market, according to NPD Group Inc., a market research firm. Cross-trainers generated $1.2 billion in sales last year, slipping behind sales of skateboarding shoes ($1.5 billion) for the first time, NPD Group figures show.

Nike, based in Oregon, already commands half the cross-trainer market, according to Matt Powell, an industry analyst with SportScanInfo, and essentially created the category in the 1980s with its memorable “Bo Knows” TV ads featuring multisport star Bo Jackson. But the industry is closely eyeing Under Armour’s foray, analysts say.

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Posted on May 7, 2008, in Athletic Wear News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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