The Super Bowl of Sports Marketing – Nike versus Under Armour

February 5, 2013 — 3 Comments

Another marketing story coming out of the Super Bowl is the ongoing battle between sport brands Nike and Under Armour in the apparel, accessories and footwear category. Nike is the number one sports apparel brand with worldwide sales exceeding $24 billion in 2012. Under Armour’s sales for 2012 are estimated to be just shy of $2 Billion. Under Armour is clearly the challenger brand in this battle. However, they have made strong inroads in this country, but Nike dominates internationally. There is big money at stake in this lucrative market.

Neither brand advertised on the Super Bowl broadcast but both had a strong presence at the game. They used a combination of innovative approaches to make an impact. Nike is the official uniform supplier of all the teams in the National League. They also supply the gloves and cleats worn by NFL Players.This means that their logo was visible throughout the game. They are also able to capitalize on sales of licensed jerseys to fans. They design the uniforms for all 32 NFL Teams. For the big game, both teams wore the NFL Nike Elite 51 uniform. This uniform was designed to maximize players speed. Both teams wore Nike Alpha Pro Cleats and Nike Vapor Fly Gloves.


A number of the athletes who played on Sunday including Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin are sponsored by Under Armour. These athletes were able to wear Under Armour products under their Nike uniforms with exposed logos. MVP Quarterback Joe Flacco of the Ravens has a Nike endorsement deal. Some athletes including Tom Brady, who is endorsed by Under Armour, have generated controversy by covering the Nike Swoosh Logo on his practice gear.

Under Armour’s headquarters is in Baltimore. They heavily promoted their allegiance to the Ravens on their website, through email communications and in social media. Nike equally promoted both teams on their website.

Both brands have promoted their partnerships with the NFL, the most powerful sports league in the country.  Since 2009, UA has sponsored the NFL Scouting Combine: an invitation-only event where 300 to 350 of the country’s top draft prospects run the 40-yard dash, lift weights and complete other athletic drills. All players must wear UA shirts, shorts and socks. The exposure of the NFL Combine deal helps UA’s brand in a couple of ways. It enables the brand to show off its base-layer products that are worn underneath the NFL uniforms — but not visible on TV. Also, UA gets to associate itself with future stars in the period between when they leaving college and join the NFL Players Association.

This will continue to be an interesting marketing battle to follow.

Which brand do you prefer Nike or Under Armour?



3 responses to The Super Bowl of Sports Marketing – Nike versus Under Armour

    Katie Alderisio February 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    As a student athlete that has worn both Nike and Under Armour, it is tough to decide which I prefer. However, I am a track runner and when we run out in theses frigid temperatures, I tend to prefer Nike base layers. I do own a number of both products, but as far as the overall quality, I would have to choose Nike. I am a fan of their running shoes, as well as I find their materials to hold up longer than the average UA clothing. Even though the price may be higher, my Nike apparel does not let me down. Thank you for the post!!!

    jenericconsulting February 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    What UA has done in such a short period of time is unbelievable. They’ve penetrated the market with great products, challenging other athletic brands and allowing the consumer better performance options. But it’s tough to compete with such a default athletic brand like Nike…great read!

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