Lost amidst the usual hysteria surrounding Donald Trump’s Tweets, tirades and threats this past weekend was the woeful performance of Under Armour.
In a flip-flopping move reminiscent of 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry, Under Armour took two diametrically opposed POVs in the space of an hour.
The drama unfolded after the sports apparel brand decided to publicly support the NFL and NBA players who suddenly, and unexpectedly, were attacked by President Trump at the appropriately named Von Braun Center at the University of Alabama.
Under Armour stepped up and immediately expressed its commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and the right of all America citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights. Then, when conservative followers began savaging the statement on social channels everywhere, Under Armour stepped back. Holy two-step, Batman!
The brand wizards took down the original Tweet and subsequently added a line about respecting our flag in a new one.
That new Tweet incited a second wave of protesters who called Under Armour weak, wishy-washy and pandering.
And, what did the powers that be at Under Armour say as they were receiving incoming mortar from all sides? Nothing. Not a word. The silence was deafening,
Alas, this is not the first time Under Armour took a fire, aim, ready approach to their Trump-related statements.
In the afterglow of The Donald’s inauguration, the company issued a hagiographic salute to our new president without realizing their top celebrity endorsers were female, people of color or others who found Trump’s incendiary rhetoric abhorrent.
The brand once again had to back pedal and support their high profile athletes’ right to speak their minds.
Under Armour’s pathetic attempts at communications don’t merely signal a sophomoric approach to marketing communications. It tells me the company lacks a purpose.
And, if you think corporate purpose is just a warm and fuzzy HR thing, think again. A recent Harris survey shows an overwhelming number of employees surveyed not only expect their company to have a purpose; they expect their CEO to reaffirm that purpose whenever such flashpoint issues as DACA, Charlottesville, illegal immigration or a crazy attack on black athletes goes down.
Once a company’s executives and employees agree upon the purpose of the organization’s existence, it’s relatively easy to allow that purpose to serve as the North Star, guiding any and all future statements that reinforce the mission and values embedded in the corporate purpose.
The Arthur W. Page Society contains countless guidelines one can follow to create a meaningful purpose that not only helps crystallize statements in times of crisis but answers the why and how questions rumbling around in every American employee’s mind:
– “Why do I go to work every day?”
– “How is my company making the world a better place?”
A corporate purpose will also elicit an employee response along the lines of:
– “This is why my professional life fulfills me just as much as my personal one.”
Under Armour lacks a purpose. Or, if they do have one, it’s either beyond mundane or ignored.
I suggest Under Armour hire some real communications professionals who know how to create, embed and activate a purpose. If they don’t, they’ll continue to wreak havoc on their image, reputation and sales.
One more year of this and Under Armour will be underwater.
Hot-rodder John Miller in the classic “American Graffiti” would say to file UnderArmour’s handling of this under “C.S.”
I agree it is pretty lame and they could benefit from better communications counsel. I don’t necessarily agree that this will hurt Under Armour long-term. Does Under Armour already Under Perform in product quality, competitiveness and customer service? Unless you know something else I don’t (which of course is always a given), it’s just hard to see how they would be the focus of a real backlash.