At the legendary Gleason’s boxing gym in Brooklyn, NY, Under Armour in early October brought out a few of its star athletes to unveil its UA x Muhammad Ali collection. View SGB‘s insider photos from the event, featuring ring-side interviews and new apparel.
In a partnership with Authentic Brands Group, LLC (ABG), which owns the licensing rights to Muhammad Ali, Under Armour is utilizing the iconic imagery, video and quotes from the Muhammad Ali archive to form the basis of a global brand integration that will include both product and marketing. Ali, 73, has been long battling Parkinson’s disease and is rarely seen in public.
Not surprisingly, the collection includes a host of t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies bearing likeness of the boxing legend as well as some his most notable feats, including the “Thrilla in Manila.” Many of the t-shirts also play up Ali’s colorful and inspiring sayings, including “I’m Going To Show You How Great I Am,” “I’m A Bad Man,” “Your Hands Can’t Hit What Your Eyes Can’t See,” and “Will Over Skill.”
But the range also includes more subtle takes on the Ali name in workout apparel for training and fitness enthusiasts.
The Ali deal was hatched in February and some product has been in the marketplace, but November 1 will mark the introduction of the first comprehensive collection.
“What November 1 represents is the first time Under Armour has put our spin on Muhammad Ali using performance as a lens,” said Glenn Silbert, VP, Mens, Outdoor and Team Sports, Under Armour.
Infused with Coldgear, Charged Cotton and many of the brand’s latest technologies, Under Armour’s designers tried to capture a younger Ali as he would appear in 2015. “We looked at what Ali would be training in today,” said Silbert. ”What apparel from Under Armour would make him better.”
To market the Ali collection to consumers, Under Amour is using videos integrating footage of Ali into its existing “Rule Yourself” ad campaign featuring Under Armour’s team of athletic endorsers: Super Bowl champion Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, NBA champion Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and ballet dancer Misty Copeland.
Special merchandising and marketing opportunities will be explored around Ali’s feats. The launch is currently being tied to the 40th anniversary the heavyweight world title fight between Ali and Joe Frazier that was fought in the Philippines. Events are also being planned for 2016 around the 20th anniversary of the Atlanta Olympics, when he famously lit the Olympic torch to start the games.
Natasha Hastings, USA track and field sprinter and Olympic gold medalist; Cam Awesome, a USA boxing heavyweight; and Jovan “Wanna” Walton, a junior boxer and Team UA Next athlete, met in a boxing ring to discuss Ali’s influence in their careers. Much of the conversation explored Ali’s stature as one of those rare class of elite athletes whose brand has endured long after him with his name resonating across cultures and generations.
Hastings remarked she definitely relates “most certainly with being flashy” when she thinks of Ali. But she also relates to Ali’s enduring pushes to become “the champion you are” despite doubts that harkens back to Under Armour’s “I Will” motto.
Cam Awesome said he respected Ali for his confidence. “I lacked confidence when I was young so I joined the gym to lose weight and become more like him – maybe not specifically like him because that’s a tough act to follow,” he said. “But I admire his charisma and his personality, and I started boxing at 16 or 17 to build confidence.”
Walton, who’s only 10, simply said, “He’s the greatest.”
Nick Woodhouse, president and CMO, Authentic Brands Group, described Ali as “one of the most respected and trailblazing figures in modern history” and talked about the “glowing of the eyes” he often receives when people find out he’s working on behalf of Ali. He related a story from outside the boxing ring as an example of Ali’s character and his ability to inspire. He said Ali once had a brief chat with a homeless man and later on had his assistants drive back and give the man a check for $10,000.
“Today it’s a lot of money for a lot of us in the room and back then it was a lot of money and people around him asked him why and he said, ‘Why not?’ said Woodhouse. “And that was really the germination of one of his famous quotes which was: ‘The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.’” Woodhouse offered the story as one example of how Ali eventually became a humanist and evolved from “this brash, cocky youngster to realizing he could affect people’s lives.”
“His achievements both in the boxing ring and through his dedicated humanitarian efforts around the world solidify him as “The Greatest of All Time,” said Silbert. “It’s an honor to align the Under Armour brand, which has long celebrated the unyielding will of an athlete, with such an icon.”
The UA x Muhammad Ali collection will sell at UA.com, Under Armour’s Brand Houses and select retailers. Highlights of the collection include:
- Ali French Terry Pull Over Hoody, $70. Lightweight French Terry fabric has a smooth outer layer with a soft inner layer while Under Armour’s Moisture Transport system wicks moisture away from the body.
- Ali Rumble Photoreal T, $35. Charged Cotton fabric dries quickly and offers a natural heathered look.
- Ali Hiit Short, $50. Light and breathable body fabric offers stretch woven panels on back and inseam for full range of motion and
- Women’s Ali Fleece Capri, $60. All-season fited pant.
- Women’s Ali Fleece Pullover, $65. ColdGear technology in a loose fitting pullover.