Oct 26, 2017
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Syrian refugee and Olympian swims in Under Armour ad

Oct 26, 2017

Under Armour is trying a new marketing strategy to create impact by recruiting Syrian refugee and Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini for its most recent ads about overcoming adversity.

Mardini swam in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on the official refugee team. She is a 19 year old refugee from Syria who left her country amidst civil war in 2015. She pulled a boat of 17 refugees safely cross the Aegean Sea after the motor died as it was taking on water.

Mardini, UN Goodwill Ambassador who currently lives in Berlin, tells a story that is a stark departure from the traditional rising to the challenge stories often told by other sports brands. Mardini recounts a time when she was at swim practice and her practice pool was bombed in Syria. Under Armour attaches her story to its new message of "Turn your pain into strength."

The campaign shows how seriously Under Armour is struggling to find its voice. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Under Armour's co-founder Kip Fulks is taking a sabbatical from the company. Additionally, it is rumored that the brand may cut its tennis and outdoor categories to reduce loss.

Under Armour has been the lowest performing sports stock currently traded on the S&P 500. It lost over half its value over the previous year. CEO Kevin Plank created controversy when he made comments construed as supporting President Trump's economic and manufacturing initiatives.

Under Armour's largest business comes from a consumer market where Mardini's story may not resonate. The brand saw backlash from its own sponsored athletes as well as consumers after Plank seemingly aligned with Trump, suggesting Under Armour should avoid politics.

While it is the third largest athletic company in the U.S., Under Armour's choice for its latest marketing campaign indicates the company is straining to deliver relevant and authentic marketing to its consumers.

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