At first, it sounds almost laughably hyperbolic. Sports? Changing the world? In a time of refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, American Nazis, climate change–among all the other issues facing people around the planet, it initially smacks of Pollyannaish naïveté. But think about how a sports team–whether it’s one you play or cheer for–often brings together people of different color, creeds, socioeconomic backgrounds, and beliefs. It unifies people who would have no other reason to talk or laugh together.
For Under Armour’s new campaign, the brand also wanted to show how an interest in sports can inspire people to make their communities a better place. The new ad is largely just the type of cool, if pretty standard, inspiration-style spot you’d expect from a major sports brand like Under Armour. But chief marketing officer Andy Donkin says that it’s merely the start of a larger campaign about how the impact of sports can go much wider than the field or court.
“There’s this real interesting intersection between culture and sport, and fans now expect that they’re going to be able to interact with players over their Instagram feeds and other social feeds,” says Donkin. “And part of that is athletes starting to take more of an active role in giving back to the community. We’re very passionate in giving back to the city of Baltimore and the other communities we operate in, and now you’re seeing athletes taking a real stand in finding ways to really connect to their own local communities.”
Pro athletes have long done charitable work in their communities, but it’s this expanded media exposure their social followings afford that can act to inspire more people to get involved. Donkin cites Misty Copeland providing access to dance for underprivileged kids, and Bryce Harper helping kids battling cancer through his foundation Harper’s Heroes.
“We’re certainly not naive enough to think sports can solve all our problems, but if each one of us can play a role in making our communities a better place, that can be pretty far-reaching,” says Donkin.
Under Armour aims to lead by example by investing more in its initiatives in and around its hometown of Baltimore. Since 2012, the company has given time and resources to 81 schools, neighborhood nonprofits, and community groups, refurbished 13 community sports facilities, as well as helped the city’s student athletes with uniform donations, coaches training, and more.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the brand has also partnered with Team Rubicon, a firs-responder organization that deploys former service members to emergency situations.
The Under Armour site will now feature a hub where fans can see the causes and charities the brand’s sponsored athletes support, with links for them to decide whether to get involved themselves.
“I think of it like raindrops,” says Donkin. “All these little things that we all do, whether it’s getting together with friends and cheering on your favorite team, sending your kid out to be involved in the local soccer club, or giving back to the community because you’re inspired by a Steph Curry or Jordan Spieth and their own charitable efforts. It all adds up.”