Under Armour Vs Nike - Brand Positioning

Under Armour vs Nike: How to Position Like a Brand Master

The story of Under Armour vs Nike is one of my favourties, demonstrating why understanding and crafting a clear brand position can give you a substantial edge over the competition. Brand positioning is more than a marketing strategy; it’s a cornerstone of your business’s identity and a crucial determinant of its success in the marketplace. Let’s dive in…

Under Armour Vs Nike

What is Brand Positioning?

At its core, brand positioning is about carving out a distinct place in the market and in the minds of consumers that differentiates you from your competitors.

It’s what makes your brand recognisable and preferable. It’s not trying to be the best at everything, it’s nuanced. It’s about doing SOMETHING better or different.

I’m going to assume you know or have heard of brand positioning.  To most people in business it’s a fancy buzz word shrowded in mystery. However,  the purpose of this article is to guide you towards thinking about your brand position in a way that can you actually take action.

Case Study: Kevin Plank and Under Armour

Back in 1996, Kevin Plank, a former college football player, embarked on a mission to challenge the giants of the sports apparel industry like Nike, Adidas, and Puma. His goal was to create a global brand distinguished not just by its products but by its unique position in the market.

With that in mind – let’s break this down.

Identifying a Unique Brand Differentiator

Many entrepreneurs attempt to copy the giants of their industry on a surface level. However, the key to rapid and sustainable growth lies in pinpointing what makes you different and leveraging that.

Kevin Plank did exactly this. He identified a significant gap in the market: athletic wear that kept athletes cool, dry, and comfortable.

This recognition led to the introduction of moisture-wicking technology in garments, a breakthrough that would define Under Armour’s market entry.

This example illustrates the importance of differentiators in brand positioning.

By focusing on a specific product feature that was neglected by others, Under Armour was able to carve out a niche for itself and gradually expand its market reach.

Already have a product that's different or better in some way?

So let’s assume you have a product or service with a difference. The next step is to understand how you will appeal to the market. The words you use and the stories you tell in your marketing (connected to your brand strategy) are the lifeblood of communicating your difference.

Let’s demostrate this now by showing Under Armour’s Brand Voice (which is key to your positioning) vs the brand voice of Nike.

Under Armour vs Nike - Brand Position Details

Under Armour Brand

Nike's Brand Position and the Emotional Pull

EMOTIONAL BRAND POSITIONING FOR NIKE:
Audience Desires
Nike has long built its brand on the emotional platform of inspiration and achievement, epitomised by its slogan ”Just Do It.” This emotional appeal targets those who see sports not just as an activity, but as a way of life and a pathway to self-improvement and personal victory.

But what about those who relate more to the struggle and the grind than the victory? This is where Under Armour found its niche.

Nike Just Do It. The Brand Mechanic

Under Armour's Brand Position and the Emotional Pull

EMOTIONAL BRAND POSITIONING FOR UNDER ARMOUR:
Audience Desires

To differenciate from Nike’s brand position, Under Armour tapped into the “underdog” narrative. Their message was often about “earning it,” about hard work, grit, and the grind it takes to become great.

This could resonate with people who felt that success is hard-won rather than bestowed, a different message to Nike. This nuanced approach to their brand positioning was crucial.

And it’s this approach that will help you take on the titans in your industry. Let’s go into more details so you can start

Brand Identity: Comparing the Logos and their Meaning

Under Armour Vs Nike Logos

Most business owners start with a logo however, when we look at the mechanics of iconic brands, it’s important to understand that the logo is there to offer a psychological shortcut for memory recall of a brand with depth and meaning.

The Under Armour logo is a simple but powerful “U” and “A” intertwined. It became an emblem for determination, hard work, and performance. Unlike Nike’s swoosh, which embodies movement and grace, Under Armour’s logo has a more industrial, rugged feel that can signify resilience and grit.

Let’s compare the difference in strategies…

Under the Hood of Under Armour and Nike

Under Armour Logo

Authenticity:

For athletes by althletes; grounded in real sports struggles.

Performance First Mindset

Emphasis on tangible benefits like moisture-wicking and temperature control.

Disruption

Emphasis on tech and innovation rather than copying Nike.

Relatability

Approachable, less corporate, underdog brand story.

Versatility

Apparel for multiple sports; inclusive.

Emotional Appeal

Underdog narrative; the grind and grit it take to win.

Iconic Logo

"U" and "A" to signify resilience and hard work.

Nike Logo

Authenticity:

Pioneers in sportwear; aspirational.

Performance First Mindset

Innovating for top performance but in a sleek and stylish way. Victory focused.

Disruption

Established leader; less focus on disruption.

Relatability

High-profile, aspirational, elite.

Versatility

Gear for specific sports, somewhat exclusive feel.

Emotional Appeal

Inspiration and achivement; the glory of victory.

Iconic Logo

Swoosh; signifies movement, grace and aspiration.

Under Armour I Will I Want Campaign

Under Armour's Impact

  • Market Share: Rapid growth let to grabbing a significant share of the sports apparel market within a decade.
  • Consumer Loyalty: Built a passionate consumer base that swears by Under Armour for both quality and emotional connection.
  • International Expansion: Successfully expanded operations to more than 70 countries.
  • Revenue Growth: Multi-billion dollar annual revenue, a feat achieved in a relatively short amount of time.
  • Product Innovation: Introduced game-changing technologies in sportswear, setting new industry standards.
  • Cultural Influence: Became a part of the larger cultural narrative through campaigns like “I Will What I Want” aimed at empowerwing women.
  • Iconic Logo: Their ‘UA’ logo has become synonymous with reslience, innovation and quality.

Closing Thoughts.

Positioning is one of the many essential parts that forms the engine that drives business performance. Let this shape your thinking when it comes to building your brand.

If you’d like to know more about branding, grab my free guide, “Beyond the Logo: Iconic Brand Mechanics” from here

About the Author

The Brand Mechanic - Peter Coleman

The Brand Mechanic - Peter Coleman

Peter Coleman, known as The Brand Mechanic, is a dedicated Brand Growth Partner with expertise in Brand Strategy and Design. Rising from a working-class background, his journey reflects a deep-rooted passion for design and branding. Leveraging his unique blend of creativity and strategic insight, he forges meaningful connections with visionary business leaders, guiding them towards their brand's full potential.

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