Under Armour received a distressing criticism from its own endorsers after Kevin Plank, who runs the sports apparel company as a CEO, complimented the 45th President, Donald Trump, for being a businessman that created economic agenda. In an interview with CNBC last week, Plank noted that Trump would be an asset for the country, which stunned renowned athletes.
The world's most marketable athletes backed off Plank's support of Trump, as Stephen Curry, an NBA star who endorses Under Armour since 2013, took an action in response to Plank's remarks saying that he would accept his partner's description as long as his word "et" is removed from asset.
"Today is such a crazy time in our society," Lisa Delpy, a professor of tourism and sport management at George Washington University, told Washington Post. "There are a lot of firsts going on. Sometimes the athletes don't always think from a #Business perspective. Kevin is talking from a businessman's perspective, looking out for his company."
Under Armour puts athlete endorsements at stake
Social media calls to boycott Under Armour might weigh down the brand. Although Under Armour did not support Trump's travel ban on immigrants and refugees especially from Muslim countries, the company still faced stiff competition with the nation's largest sports apparel companies, Nike and Adidas, on a publicity matter.
Over the past weekend, Nike created an advertising campaign, which featured 'Equality' among sports stars, including LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kevin Durant, Victor Cruz, Gabby Douglas, Megan Rapinoe and Dalilah Muhammad. The message of ad was made to deliver awareness on equality and opportunity in an effort to prevent discrimination issues.
As brand ambassadors Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a wrestler and actor who has his own line of signature shoe with Under Armour, and ballet dancer Misty Copeland expressed disapproval of Plank's judgments on controversial policies last week, there was a concerning trend among endorsers and Under Armour that might cause disassociation between them.
However, Curry told San Jose Mercury News in an interview last week that he continues to maintain a business relationship with Under Armour after he spent a lot of time speaking with personnel as well as Plank regarding the company's mission and values.
Under Armour hopes to get speedy recovery from public
As of 2017, The Under Armour's business is not doing well, as shares of the company have dipped rapidly last month. According to business publications, the company reported disappointing earnings, which set a slowest growth in holiday sales. Several financial groups analysts have turned the company's stocks to pessimistic after Plank acclaimed the president.
The sports brand, like Under Armour, attempts to establish a crisis communication strategy that aids the company confront public challenges and address criticism on political and social issues.
"The difficulty today is that the consumer -- especially the millennial consumer -- is really demanding that companies take a stand on political and social issues," Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at NPD Group, said in an interview with Fox Business. "I think this is new territory for a lot of the brands who have really never spoken out on these topic before. They are trying to figure out what's the right lane here and what's the right tone to set."
While Under Armour seeks a rapid recovery from the public, the brand elucidates the importance of diversity, innovation and opportunity for global companies in the U.S., according to the company's press release.
"We stand firmly for equal rights," Plank said in an open letter on a full page ad via Baltimore Sun. "We believe that immigration is a source of strength, diversity and innovation for global companies based in America like Under Armour. And I personally believe that immigration is the foundation of our country's exceptionalism."