The athlete endorsements that are turning Under Armour into Nike’s strongest competitor

Steph curry shoes
A pair of Stephen Curry’s Under Armour sneakers. Stephen Dunn/Getty

This week, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has a shot at winning the NBA championship.

As the face of Under Armour, Curry would not only achieve a milestone in his career, he’d be giving Under Armour another massive credibility boost.

CEO Kevin Plank founded the Baltimore-based sports apparel and equipment company in 1996, and it has emerged in the past few years as a serious contender in the industry.

Last year Under Armour overtook Adidas, which also owns Reebok, as the second most popular sportswear manufacturer in the US, with $US2.6 billion in revenue in apparel and footwear. It’s still far behind Nike, however, which brought in $US11.8 billion in revenue in that same sector in 2014.

Plank has said he expects Under Armour to grow revenues 20% this year, and part of his plan is to continue focusing on acquiring major athlete endorsements.

In addition to NCAA partnerships and deals with international teams like the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspurs, Under Armour has been building a roster of star athletes that build its brand and boost its sales.

Here are some of the company’s biggest gets.

Stephen Curry — Point guard, Golden State Warriors

Matthew Dellavedova and Stephen Curry

Under Armour approached Curry in 2013 as his contract with Nike was about to expire. Nike considered whether it was worth outbidding Under Armour, and concluded that Curry’s chance of deserving a signature shoe wasn’t high enough. Curry soon became one of the NBA’s most prominent stars and the 2014-2015 MVP. His signature shoe, the UA Curry One, is Under Armour’s best-selling shoe.

Tom Brady — Quarterback, New England Patriots

Tom brady

The four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP signed a deal with Under Armour in 2010 after his deal with Nike expired, taking some of his payment in stock.

Gisele Bündchen — Model

Under Armour

Bündchen, the former world’s top-grossing model, joined her husband Tom Brady in the Under Armour family last September, months before announcing her retirement from the catwalk. She is part of Under Armour’s largest ever global marketing campaign for women.

Jordan Spieth — Professional golfer on the PGA Tour

Jordan spieth masters

In January, Under Armour signed 21-year-old Spieth to a 10-year contract. In April, he joined history’s greatest golfers when he won the Master’s. “Thanks to Jordan, our company grew up today,” Under Armour CEO Plank told ESPN after the win.

Misty Copeland — Soloist, American Ballet Theatre

Misty copeland under armour

One of Under Armour’s most prominent athletes isn’t a basketball or soccer star, but a ballerina. Under Armour was drawn to Copeland’s remarkable journey to becoming the second black soloist in the American Ballet Theatre, one of the world’s premiere ballet companies. She made her deal last year.

Clayton Kershaw — Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw

Under Armour’s bet on Kershaw when he was a rookie in 2008 ended up becoming one of its biggest successes. Kershaw ranks among the best pitchers in MLB, as a three-time Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star.

Lindsey Vonn — Downhill skier, US Ski Team

Lindsey vonn

Vonn, a four-time gold medalist, has been with Under Armour since 2006 and remains a prominent spokesperson.

Cam Newton — Quarterback, Carolina Panthers

Cam newton under armour

Under Armour pushed hard in 2011 to land the Heisman-winning quarterback before his rookie year in the NFL, paying what NBC said may have been the biggest apparel contract ever given to an NFL rookie. Newton remains a celebrity athlete in the league, and led the Panthers to their divisional championship last year, losing to the Seahawks.

Buster Posey — Catcher, San Francisco Giants

Buster posey

Posey is another prospect Under Armour grabbed as a rookie in 2009, and today he’s regarded as arguably the best catcher in baseball. He’s a three-time World Series champion and National League MVP, among other accolades.

Kelley O’Hara — Defender, US Women’s National Team

Kelley o'hara

O’Hara is another score from Nike, and emerged last year as one of the faces of Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign for female athletes. She’s one of the three players who played every minute of every game in the US Women’s National Team’s 2012 gold-medal run.

Michael Phelps — Swimmer, US National Team

Michael phelps under armour

Phelps, who signed his deal in 2010, may have been out of the spotlight for a while, but he remains the most successful Olympian of all time with 22 medals and is training for next year’s Olympics.

There’s a full roster of endorsement deals at Under Armour’s website.

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