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The Slow Integration of UAS Bothers Me

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Under Armour launched a new pop-up store to show off its most expensive line of clothes ever.

Source: Under Armour Pop-Up Shows Off Its Fashion Chops – TheStreet (@BrianSozzi on Twitter)

In regard to my title I guess the hood question would be, “Who the F is you?” Seriously, I don’t have a very big voice at all, but I sell sneakers. I walk into a sneaker store everyday. I’ve lived sneakers since I was a kid in the 80s watching Rakim wear a Fila Sweatsuit and Just-Ice wearing Filas, Run-DMC singing My Adidas and visiting that one kid in the neighborhood’s house that had cable to watch Wild Style. In short, I’m not new to sportswear so when I say this slow progression is bothering me it’s because I think Under Armour is playing a game it can’t win by rebranding and removing the element of sport from the release. I do like the idea, but the roll out is isolating and while athleisure/casual athletics, has been in motion since people started rocking Jordans for streetwear, dabbling in high fashion when you are a sports company in my opinion has to contain some element of sport when you are a recognized sports brand.

Nike doesn’t rebrand itself to launch dope sportswear. They utilize their athletes. Let me post a series of pictures from Nike’s site for the sportswear line: http://news.nike.com/news/autumn-2016-tech-fleece

This campaign is for the exact same clothing that UAS is attempting to create. Nike is utilizing who? Brand Ambassadors which will connect to the market much faster than utilizing a group of stoic models with appearances that are no longer what people aspire to. Consider the recent promos by Adidas and who will push their athleisure/sportswear and look at the pictures. They use the stoic, lean, model, but the initial pictures are of Brand Endorsers: Adidas Tubular Lookbook Footwear and Apparel and Adidas x Reigning Champ

I’m sure if I took the time to look at Puma and other prominent brands, I would see either a brand endorser or influencer just as I did when I wrote about KITH entering high fashion.

Let’s look at retail outlets. UAS is not being distributed yet, but the looks they are creating appear to be more for Macy’s and Nordstroms. I guess when you consider KITH is now in Bergdorf Goodman, it makes sense, but KITH is a boutique that is seen as the epitome of cool. If UAS is headed into relationships with high end stores and boutiques I get the slow roll out and the treatment of the brand as a fashion launch, but something just rubs me the wrong way.

UAS exists in fashion, not urban, but when I think UA I think sports and I’ve watched FootLocker take the sale of athleisure and urban apparel to the next level with great storytelling, merchandising and a commitment to pushing accessories via a program they have for sales associates called Hookups. The sales associates are measured on a metric that gives them more credit for a sale if they can get the buyer to also pick up apparel which most often sportswear. I know that this is not the market that UAS is aiming for. The apparel designed by Tim Coppens is more high end which is not what FootLocker is doing with apparel. However, all high end brands eventually have to strip down and hit the street and if UA wants more sway with FootLocker why not build models that can be entry as well as high end?

UAS launched during NYFW and on 12/2/2016 they launched a pop up shop. When a brand is delivering a new product testing the market is a necessity. Just because a brand can launch something new right away, doesn’t mean that they should. In other words I get the slow roll out of UAS. I understand why they aren’t using athletes in cross promotion. This is a product they want to represent the everyday person who is now wearing athleisure from the gym to the office to happy hour. My problem is creating a new division with completely different branding is like launching a completely different company and I guess it is. In the Source article it states,

“UAS is about entering the next chapter of Under Armour. We haven’t even connected with our consumers off the field,” Ben Pruess, president of Sport Fashion at Under Armour told TheStreet in a  September interview.

UAS isn’t about “protecting this house” it’s about becoming a part of daily wear for twenty and thirtysomethings. The problem is, even those twenty and thirtysomethings want to feel connected to endorsers and these fashion shows and pop ups are good tests for making the brand feel good, but pop-ups almost always perform well because people know that the items are limited and they can actually grab a runway look which moves UAS towards fast fashion, but even industry people realize fast fashion can’t sustain and actually hurts the longevity of a brand. Athleisure has so much room for growth and as Matt Powell of NPD stated,

From NPD Consumer Panel data, sales of Activewear last quarter grew in the high single digits in the US.

I just don’t think UAS is doing this right.