Under Armour wins again as Spieth takes Masters in style

Photo courtesy of Under Armour

NEW YORK — Jordan Spieth’s Masters Tournament title, his first major victory, continued a string of success for Under Armour.

In February, Under Armour introduced its first basketball shoe tied to a specific player: top National Basketball Association All-Star vote-getter Stephen Curry. In March, a company-best six teams, including the University of Notre Dame, wore its shoes in college basketball’s national men’s tournament.

Now it has put itself on the golf apparel map via Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan who shredded Augusta National Golf Club over four days to tie four-time winner Tiger Woods’ tournament scoring record.

The navy and white outfit of Spieth, the first wire-to-wire Masters winner since Raymond Floyd in 1976, was covered in Under Armour logos Sunday during his four-stroke victory over three- time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and 2013 U.S. Open winner Justin Rose. Finishing fourth was No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy, who is now just ahead of Spieth in the Official World Golf Ranking.

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“You look at this overall changing of the guard that they were talking about yesterday with McIlroy and Spieth — not replacing Mickelson and Woods — but this overall feeling that there is a transition going on,” said sports marketing professor David Carter. “You can’t help but notice that there might also be a transition going on in the apparel business.”

Baltimore-based Under Armour last year had $3.08 billion in sales, surpassing Adidas as the No. 2 sports apparel maker. Under Armour in February reiterated it expects sales to climb 22 percent, still way below Nike, which had revenue in the 12 months through February of $30.2 billion.

Under Armour signed Spieth when he turned pro in 2013 at 19. In January, the company extended his contract for 10 years, making him the first golfer outfitted head-to-toe in Under Armour apparel. Spieth has been involved in developing the company’s first golf shoe, a limited edition that went on sale this month. Under Armour also has endorsement deals with golfers Hunter Mahan and Gary Woodland.

Wearing three Under Armour logos on his hat, three on his shirt, one on his belt, two on his pants and logos on his shoes, Spieth earned Under Armour $30.7 million in exposure over four days of Masters television coverage on CBS and ESPN, according to Eric Smallwood, a Detroit-based sports sponsorship analyst.

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“This is a transformational moment for the game and for our brand,” Under Armour said in an e-mailed statement. “The entire Under Armour team is so proud to have Jordan as part of our family and to celebrate this historic achievement with him.”

As well as helping to sell more apparel, Spieth’s historic victory will also boost Under Armour’s image, said Sam Poser, a New York-based analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc. who recommends buying the shares.

“It’s not about the sport,” Poser said. “It’s about the spectacle, about the winning. Everyone in the world is going to know who Jordan Spieth is, even if you’re not a golf fan.”

Shares in Under Armour have climbed 66 percent in the past year, valuing the company at $18.3 billion. Since Jan. 1, 2012, the stock has surged almost five times to $85.11 at its closing price Monday from $17.95.

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Founded in 1996 by former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank, Under Armour has forced its way into a sporting goods market that a decade ago seemed impenetrable, Carter said.

“They’ve put a lot of the traditional heavyweights not only on notice, but on defense because of some of the signings they’ve made,” Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, said in a phone interview. “They’ve gone from building relevance in the marketplace to now being one of the stalwarts that everyone’s paying attention to.”

— With assistance from Matt Townsend in New York.