Under Armour Apparel 1

University Transitions to Under Armour Apparel

The University has made a transition in its athletic apparel from its former sponsor, Nike, to Under Armour (UA) over the past year. The multi-year contract was announced on Nov. 30, 2016, and the transition in athletic apparel and team uniforms began on July 1, 2017.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Jonathan Roos said that when the Nike contract was coming to an end, Monmouth Athletics decided to initiate a bidding process. Nike had priority bidding, and the company wanted to renew their partnership. However, Roos said that UA’s package was much more enticing. 

This year-long bidding process was not only between Nike and UA. Roos explained that Adidas and lesser-known brands, such as Russel Athletic, were also among the potential bidders. Roos negotiated all the terms of the partnership and is now The University’s representative for UA.

Marilyn McNeil, Ph.D., Vice President and Director of Athletics commented and said, “I believe that the drive, passion and goals of Under Armour closely match what we are trying to achieve as an Athletics Department. Their commitment to constant product research and development coupled with their relentless marketing efforts will help to continue to push Monmouth Athletics to the forefront of Division I.”

McNeil explained that UA were aggressive in getting this deal done, actively recruiting Monmouth Athletics to become part of their brand. “This partnership will provide numerous benefits to our student-athletes, coaches and staff for years to come,” McNeil added.

The five-year contract with UA will end June 30, 2022. The official press release on the Monmouth Athletics website states, “The partnership includes all footwear, uniforms and training footwear and apparel for Monmouth student-athletes, coaches and administrators.” 

Under Armour Apparel 2Greg Viscomi, the Associate Athletics Director for New Media and Communications, pointed to UA’s increasing popularity among schools the same size as, and larger than, the University. According to the Asbury Park Press, other schools with athletic agreements with Under Armour include: UCLA, Seton Hall University, Boston College, and Elon University. 

“I think that transitioning to Under Armour was a great opportunity for the University to get more out of our partnership with an exclusive retailer,” said Viscomi. 

Roos explained that Athletics looks for certain qualities in companies that help them in deciding who they partner with. These qualities include the safety, comfort, and durability of athletic gear, as well as customer service. 

Roos said that five years ago, no brands were reaching out to the University, but once the school’s basketball team began to get nationally televised recognition, more prominent brands began to contact Athletics for contracts. 

According to Eddy Occhipinti, Associate Athletics Director of Marketing and Sponsorships, the previous ten-year relationship with Nike was just a stepping stone for the University, a first attempt at branding the school. “Having that affiliation [with Nike] helped us in this next evolution of Monmouth,” said Occhipinti.

Roos said this partnership is Athletics exclusive, meaning it solely deals with the University’s athletic program; however, affiliating UA with the University has gone beyond just Athletics. The bookstore also switched all previous Nike products to UA. According to Roos, the bookstore has no legal obligation to sell the same brand that Athletics is partnered with, but Athletics asks them to in order to stay consistent.

“The exclusivity may only apply to Athletics and shall not prohibit Monmouth University from selling other brands in its bookstore,” Roos read directly off the partnership contract. “They (the Bookstore) can do anything they want, order what they want, they run their own ship,” said Roos. 

Roos said that he noticed an opportunity to get UA more present on campus and asked the bookstore if they would be interested, to which they agreed. “The store always tries to back up the school,” said non-student bookstore employee Barbara Coleman.

Bookstore Manager Marguerite Stocker said, “They (Athletics) said they were looking into switching, and then they told us when they made the decision.” The bookstore still carries brands other than UA, such as Champion, Russel Athletic and Gear. They have a section of the store dedicated to UA apparel, including water bottles. Coleman said that sales on clothing have increased since the switch to UA, and Stocker said she believes that it was a good move.

Roos said, “We want the bookstore to sell UA because since it’s Athletics exclusive, people will associate Athletics with UA and say, ‘Hey, I want to wear what the team wears.’” 

Occhipinti agreed with Roos, saying that selling UA at the bookstore gives students, families, and fans the chance to wear the same brand they see Monmouth athletes wearing on the field and court. 

John Buzza, a specialist professor of marketing management, said that the fact that the bookstore is selling the same brand that the athletes wear “absolutely” helps their sales. “You want to have what the consumer wants,” said Buzza. “Consumers are probably going to want more UA products than Nike because Nike is not our sponsor anymore. If someone wants a UA basketball shirt, and all the bookstore has is Nike, they lose that sale.”

Roos said that what they are trying to do is create brand affiliation. “It helps create value for our institution,” said Roos. “They (prospective students) get on campus and look at everything, programs, dorms, stadiums, but they’re also seeing that UA sponsors athletics. When prospective students have that brand recognition and see that this is a legit place, I think it helps them feel like they’re getting the full college experience.”

Both the Bookstore and Athletics have praised UA’s customer service, “If something breaks or tears, they either repair it or send a new one right away,” said Roos. 

Coleman also commented on UA’s customer service saying that it is much better than the customer service they received during their partnership with Nike. “We get stuff (products and apparel) in two weeks, whereas we once waited almost a year for a shipment of Nike footballs,” Coleman said.

Stocker said that the bookstore looks through UA’s extensive catalogue of products and chooses which items they want to sell in the bookstore, and that buyers have hardly noticed the brand switch. 

“I think Monmouth branding itself with UA benefits both parties,” said David Letcher, a junior finance and economics student. “Monmouth can get quantity discounts from buying in bulk and UA gained a whole new demographic of Monmouth students, athletes, families, and alumni. This will boost the company’s sales, as well as increase their advertising and brand recognition.”

Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) graduate student Ariana Murdocca said, “With the controversy happening right now, it looks better for our school to not be involved in it (Nike-Kaepernick controversy), because there are people that are so one-sided that [they] would not come to this school if we were still affiliated with Nike.” 

She continued, “Every school has a brand, and even though the Kaepernick situation is not why we switched partnerships, it still benefits Monmouth since Nike is in hot water right now.”

“It is important to note that there are probably just as many people who would look favorably upon a Nike partnership because of the Kaepernick relationship as there are people who would look negatively on it,” John Morano, a professor of journalism, pointed out. 

Morano also voiced his concern about the reputational risk that could come with partnerships with well-known brands such as UA. “When we partner with a company whose logo is on everything that has our logo, our reputation could in theory be affected by their behavior. So, in essence, there is a bit of a gamble here,” he said.

“I think that it is common practice for universities to have partnerships with a single franchise or organization,” said Mary Harris, a specialist professor of public relations. “When there is only one organization [the school is] working with, there is a higher level of risk, but because it is common practice… it’s just kind of how it is.” 

She also agreed that it is a good idea for Monmouth to attempt to create brand affiliation, specifically with Athletics. “Having a [professional] brand to sign with can create the perception that our athletics division is [more] professional.”

Buzza said that endorsements today are risky because there can be things unknown about the partnership. He explained that bigger schools have had issues throughout the years with the brands they are partnered with involving occurrences of paying university players to wear their products along with doing other things under the table.

However, Buzza concluded that the University affiliating with a brand like UA is beneficial for the school, “at the end of the day if it’s all done for the right reasons, then, yes, it is a good thing.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University