Darren Rovell: ‘Cats Ink Uni Deal with Under Armour

Wow.  The news just never stops coming out of Evanston. I got blindsided by CNBC & Purple Mafia Member, Darren Rovell’s tweet today.  The ‘Cats have reportedly signed on with Under Armour, which will take the place of Adidas as the official Northwestern uniform supplier. This is pretty big news in recruiting circles. Before you “tisk” that comment, consider the fact that college football fashion has become quite the buzz among current and future members of college football teams.  For the past 20-years it’s been a consistently increasing intangible for a team’s brand. From Michigan’s Fab 5 baggy shorts to the launch of Brand Jordan teams to the Oregon Ducks’ mix and match outfits to this year’s transcendent visuals of Maryland’s state map being blurted out of a blender on their uniforms, fashion matters in branding.  Gary Barnett made the then controversial uniform move, at the encouragement of his Colorado Rockies loving family to add some black to the ‘Cats purple. The move admittedly caught the eye of a couple of recruits, including one of our alltime best defenders, Hudaifa Ismaeli, who said it was one of the first things that resonated with him when seeing us on TV.

I know what you’re thinking  – do we want a kid that is making a college decision in part based on the uniform manufacturer? The answer is “maybe”. Think about some of the criteria you used when selecting or not selecting a school – the weather on that day, someone who was rude to you or some other tangental piece of info that subconciously swayed you. The intangible of being an Under Armour school is much more than the tangible uniform, practice gear and other products you’ll use. It’s a statement of a program that you’re leading edge as NU can borrow some brand equity from the brand that has changed the landscape of what was a one-horse landscape (read: Nike) for a long time.

On a sidenote, for my day job we produced the “I Will” campaign for the Big Ten Conference in 2008, a full year plus before Under Armour released its “I Will” campaign. You can be the judge for how similar the Big Ten campaign was. Point is, you can swap out the player shots with updated players to get the same feel for the tone of our new apparrel outfitter.

Nike is still the brand leader in college uniforms, in my opinion, with Oregon as their case study. This past year you saw the most expansive shakeup of traditional uniforms at merchandise powerhouse schools like Ohio State and Michigan along with places like Michigan State introducing the highly popular (among the young) Pro Combat unis. Northwestern even got in to the act with their video game-like purple/grey combo for the night game against Penn State (after an all-black uni look for the Michigan night game). Traditionalists will balk at news like this as petty cosmetic stuff.  Those in the trenches know the significance of what this means to the Northwestern Athletic brand. It’s a big deal.

Let the comments and fashion consulting begin!

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Thanks Jim and please know the entire Northwestern community is with you in support and spirit during this challenging time. For the fans, NU ticket sales are estimated to be at about 6K. That means some 14K of the season ticket holders (at least) have not purchased tickets. If you can’t make it, donate. It’s critical we sellout our allotment for future bowl help.

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  • Northwestern Highlights

    It’s been rumored, but I’m still excited about it. And before people start worrying about ugly alternate jerseys, it’s up to the program. Auburn hasn’t gone that route, to the best of my knowledge, and they sport the best Northwestern striping uniforms in the country. I’m pretty excited to see Under Armour do the same for Northwestern.

    I think UA will be happy to put their gear on Fitz, too. He’ll be good for them.

  • It’s just another thing you can use to market the program, so I think it’s a good thing. Like NU Highlights says, UA has stayed pretty simple/traditional with Auburn…but they also went bonkers with Maryland. I’m excited to see something fresh on the Cats next year.

    From @CoachFitz51 “… click clack GO CATS!”

  • Northwestern Highlights

    Also, with marketing and promotional rights, the money coming into Northwestern will probably see a nice boost as a result of this deal. I don’t think the last deal meant much to Adidas.

    The athletic department has really done a nice job over the last few years of growing the sponsor partnership portfolio. It makes a big difference.

  • Peter Skillz

    I have mixed feelings about the UA news. On one hand, we’ll probably get more attention from UA than we did from adidas. On the other, I haven’t really liked any of UA’s designs for other teams.

    Is it true the Colorado Rockies helped inspire our black/purple uniforms? I had never heard that before. We debuted our black jerseys in Sept. 1992 and the Rockies played their first game in April 1993, but probably had their logo/uniforms out before then.

  • UARocks

    Nike only wants “big name” schools. Schools like OSU, USC, Florida, Oregon, etc., get all their stuff paid for, but smaller schools have to pay through the nose to have Nike. Thats why a lot of smaller schools go to adidas, because adidas gives them free stuff PLUS money to spend on athletics. Nike only does this for big name schools. NU will NEVER EVER go Nike cause Nike doesn’t want us, nor 95% of other schools.

    Under Armour will be good for recruiting, it might draw more attention, but it won’t matter until admissions standards are lowered and we get lakeside facilities for Football.

    • VAWildcat

      Lowering admission standards isn’t going to happen, and if it does it will be the death of NU football (to me, anyway).

  • db

    Under Armour is a clear #3 from a brand / recruiting perspective. However, I think its a big win if UA actually makes the swag available and puts it in catalogs, etc. Adidas was pretty awful – never featured where they sold stuff, put stuff out late, even made the wrong patterns on jerseys, etc. They were awful to work with apparently as well – the retailers said they were impossible.

    I think the important thing is to be featured by the brand. And to not have anything that looks like what Maryland wore this year.

    • CEBPB

      a clear #3? You think recruits see Adidas and Under Armour and say, “oh man, Adidas is SO much cooler”. UA is #2 for recruiting behind Nike. Adidas is boring.

      • db

        I’m old so what do I know but I’ve never even seen a pair of UA shoes. Pretty sure UA is a zero for basketball, but we already wrote off that program years ago so might as well focus on football.

        Per football, yeah I do think adidas and the programs they represent are much more identifiable then UA. Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Notre Dame vs south carolina, maryland, baylor, etc. You think that makes UA cooler? Not to mention adidas’s historical ties to hip hop, etc.

        Like I said, we need a brand that will promote our brand. Adidas wasn’t doing it. I’m sure they tried Nike and they obviously didnt get there. So if UA focuses on us like Phillips said its a clear win.

        But lets be clear, this is the equivalent of “We have 3 consecutive night games!” footnoted with “(on BTN)”

        • Philip Rossman-Reich

          Under Armour is working their way into the basketball market. They have Brandon Jennings of the Bucks as their principle basketball guy and are slowly trying to get more. Their football marketing campaign is far ahead of their basketball campaign.

          But they pretty much set the bar as a performance apparel company. This is not just about shoes. When it comes to apparel and equipment, Under Armour is probably second behind Nike.

          Even just looking at Temple’s gear during their bowl game today, you could see a bolder look. Kids will be excited to get all this new “swag.” Even if it means awful jerseys, I hope Under Armour takes this partnership seriously and makes Northwestern jerseys that will get people talking (in a positive way).

          Ultimately, success or failure is judged on the field. No one cares what brand you wear if you are losing.

      • Catatonic

        Branding starts younger with kids than the comments seem to reflect. When my kid was in middle school a couple years ago, Under Armor was the big thing and Nike and Adidas were the old established brands. Under Armor remains the preferred “cool” brand. This will help us with the younger viewers we want to start liking NU as a sports destination, not just as a brainiac school.

        • ベン

          It also helps that UA makes the clearly superior product. Their items are better, and more importantly, cost more. Price Heuristic means they’re obviously better and more pretigious (whether or not that’s true). I think this is a major coup.

          Also, I have NO IDEA what you’re talking about with adidas’ ties to hip hop. UA is the young up and comer- this is a huge get, in my opinion.

          • shoes

            Actually, UA products, specifically their shoes, are inferior to adidas and Nike.

            UA is the “cool” brand with younger athletes.

            Adidas has those programs because they give those teams TONS of money to be sponsored by them, but Michigan wisconsin, tennessee, notre dame compared to Oregon, Bama, LSU, USC? INFERIOR.

            No one goes to those schools above because they have adidas. if anything it hurts them.


          • db

            Adidas was run dmc

          • db

            my comment was re: UA vs Adidas. Of course Nike is a better brand and deal.

            just a note, to the point made earlier that nike only goes large cap…they do Vandy, Stanford, Duke, Harvard…

            I didnt realize UA was such a big deal with kids. My point was it is a distant 3rd with programs. All of this is actually pretty funny – a few yrs ago werent they all trying to get out of the college gear business?

            For all we know Adidas bailed on us and this was the best we could do…of course it would be billed differently. who knows?

  • SB

    This is the best news ever.

  • Scott

    But please, please, please, kind folks at Under Armour, don’t make us wear anything even one-tenth as hideous as those awful things you designed for Maryland!!

  • hudhaifa

    You are damn right HUDHAIFA was one of NU’s all time best defensive players……………….Great move to UNDER ARMOUR…………CLICK CLACK, CLICK CLACK

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  • hudhaifa

    addidas did suck for NU, totally agree with you db!!! Can’t find a decent Jersey to save your life

  • Bobb Hall Alum

    Ok great news just need the facilities master plan already…

  • PittsburghWildcat

    It never seemed like we were a real priority for adidas. Only another school to add to the stable. Seems like we’re a lot more important to UA’s overall marketing approach, especially in Chicagoland. That can only be positive for all of our programs.

    Just 1 favor to ask. Please don’t subject us to numerous “we must protect this house” soundbytes at games. Those of you who also went to the BC game in September will recall hearing that crap what I would guess to be around a dozen times during the game.

    • Road ‘Cat

      This actually didn’t bother me too much..EXCEPT that it got the BC fans going. If playing the soundbyte has the same effect on our fans in the stands, it might be a GOOD thing.

  • cece

    good news. but please, for the love of god, get the colors right. what is the official NU purple? what is the Pantone color number for the University papers, the official color, and tell the manufacturer to get that color right. and then make sure that everything produced is in that color. it’s a color that is dictated by a number. uniformity for uniforms and other ‘Cats materials,please.

    • Lake The Posts

      Amen… a pet peave of mine for years. +1

      • db

        How is adidas supposed to get the colors right when our own bball court has multiple versions of the purple?

  • hudhaifa

    Not pretty but a win is a win…..good game by reggie hearn…..off night for shurna but it’s basketball you aren’t money every game.

  • Subwayalum90

    Bet Let’s Tailgate will have some good stuff in the discount bin soon.

  • Wildcat2014

    Under Armour is clearly superior to Adidas. As a current student, I can attest that that is a pretty consistent sentiment amongst students. Nike is probably the best, and at least the most prestigious. But where Adidas represents tired, boring, and corporate, UA is much more fresh.

    Ya, they aren’t perfect (see: Maryland….though Jim Phillips and Fitz would never let that happen), but at least they take risks.

    Seriously, is there anything Jim Phillips can’t do??

    • Alec

      You hit it right on the head. When I go to the gym (of course this is just on military posts) everyone is wearing UA, to include myself, simply because they make the best gear. Nike is a bigger brand, but UA is more popular (like WGCI back in Chicago, ‘#1 in the Streets’!). As for Adidas… they’re not going to attract anyone.

      The heart of this story is NU sports continuing to increase their profile, whether it’s through decent bowl games, night games on BTN, Persa-strong, a catchy sponsorship deal, or even the rigged ‘pick the court’ poll for b-ball, the Athletic Department is doing it’s best to get attention. The rubber will really meet the road with the facilities overhaul.

      Side note, I’ll be the LAX teams are going ga ga about this. W/ the Maryland roots UA is all about LAX (unlike any other brand) so those teams should be getting some nice gear.

      • TB

        Power 92 is #1 in the streets. Come on.

  • ‘Catatonic Tim

    We’ve come a long ways from the early ’90s when you could buy Michigan gear from the Foot Locker in Downtown Evanston but no NU stuff.

  • Richard

    Michigan & ND inferior to Oregon and LSU? Huh?

    LSU is a powerhouse because they have a lock on their goldmine of in-state football talent, but ND and Michigan beat LSU and (most certainly) Oregon when recruiting on neutral grounds.

    Oh, and I have to say that the weather and whether someone was rude or not had absolutely no impact on where I decided on college.

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