When Auburn University nearly won a national championship in football Jan. 6, Baltimore-based apparel company Under Armour, which has a schoolwide apparel deal with the Tigers, narrowly missed out on a high-profile branding opportunity.
But Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank may have landed an ever larger opportunity for his company. ESPN reported that the University of Notre Dame would begin wearing Under Armour for team sports after its deal with adidas expires at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year. An official announcement is expected during the next several days, according to ESPN.
Notre Dame is one of the most prolific brands in college athletics, and the Fighting Irish have been working with adidas, a German company, since 1997. The two parties signed a 10-year deal in 2005. But, according to reports, the relationship changed when adidas signed a deal with the University of Michigan, a rival of Notre Dame's. That deal brought the Wolverines $8.2 million annually in cash and equipment and was the largest deal in college athletics.
For Under Armour, securing a deal with Notre Dame would be a watershed moment for the company, which began in 1996 and has become increasingly competitive with Nike and adidas for deals in professional and college athletics. Under Armour has deals in place with schools such as Maryland, South Carolina, Texas Tech and Northwestern, and would get additional exposure from Notre Dame, a national and international brand with a large and diverse alumni base around the world.
Under Plank, a former football player at Maryland, Under Armour has gained a reputation for developing innovative uniform styling, including the popular Maryland flag gear for the Terps' football team. Increasingly, college athletic departments are attempting to replicate professional franchises in terms of licensed merchandise, sponsorship deals and ticket sales.