CASE STUDY: Under Armour’s I Will What I Want Campaign

Shadows dance across taut muscles as Misty Copeland balances en pointe. The voice of a young girl reads a rejection letter Misty received from a dance institution. The voice describes all the ways Misty’s figure did not fit the criteria for a “ballerina’s body.”

The video was one of two to premiere with Under Armour’s 2014 campaign, I Will What I Want.

Launching during the fall—a season dominated by male sports—UA was determined to re-emphasize it is just as much a company for women as well as men. Partnering with Droga5 to create the campaign, I Will What I Want, UA specifically targeted female consumers by featuring Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre’s first African American female principal dancer, at its forefront.

Prior to the campaign, UA’s Women’s athletic line, while it was not in an unhealthy state, was still lagging in sales compared with competing companies like Lululemon and Nike. UA understood that in order to grow its number of female consumers, it needed to reinvigorate its approach. Women needed to see themselves in the company’s brand; UA wanted to affirm every woman’s unique experience of athletic performance however she defined it.

Under Armour’s strategy was story.

By casting Misty’s painful but bold and victorious story at the forefront of its brand, it established Under Armour as a sportswear brand for women of all bodies, backgrounds, and experiences. In a video with TIME, Copeland says,

I think that’s why people go to to see performances. They want to see something beautiful but they also want to see themselves up there. They want to be able to dream of what maybe they dream about doing, you know, going up there and dancing…. I want them to be able to see dreams through me.

UA’s I Will What I Want was an opportunity for an evolving age of consumers to see themselves in Copeland; for girls to dream through her story.

Bearing the essence of the campaign, Copeland’s journey and its launch saw immediate and impressive results.

The videos received 13 million views on Under Armour’s website and on YouTube. It drove high numbers of people—70% of whom were new consumers and the majority of them being women—to the company’s e-commerce site, with an additional +350,000 downloads of UA’s I Will What I Want App.1

Copeland’s story grounds and clothes the campaign in brilliant, moving authenticity.

She personalizes the company’s desire to reach all women of every performance type. Copeland has since said,

I want people to understand that Under Armour is me, they represent what I am, and I wouldn’t be a part of this company if they didn’t.

UA CEO Kevin Plank described Copeland’s journey of will as “100% reflective of what the Under Armour brand DNA is all about.”

Plank reported UA’s Women’s athletic line saw a double-digit sales increase in UA’s 2015 fourth quarter review, leaving the company on track to $75mm in revenue.2 He said3, “So 2014 was a year that we defined and we described as the year of the woman. We ignited this conversation on the marketing side with the female consumer that’s really taken the brand to a new level of engagement and expectation. And we did that through people, through personalities; personalities like Misty and Gisele.”

With its more recent campaign, Unlike Any, Under Armour has continued to root its vision in the stories of strong women such as Natasha Hastings, Zoe Zhang, Lindsey Vonn, and Alison Désir.

Increasing its Women’s sales and re-establishing its brand as for women has been a longer feat but Under Armour has and is continuing to do it through the power of story.

1, page 6
2, page 18
3 ibid.

About the Author

Lindsay Isler

Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a Bachelor’s in English Literature.