Before we even take the slightest step here, I want to be clear that this article is in no way a follow-up to Tuesday’s post about the possible Shamrock Series uniforms for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish by Under Armour. This story has been in my editor for almost a week now with little more than the title and the picture.
Of course, it placed a lot higher on my “to do” list after I published the story, but that’s mostly because of the fan reaction I saw, and the conversations that spawned from seeing the next maybe Shamrock Series jersey.
Notre Dame has an Under Armour problem, and I have a few thoughts that we’re going to talk about.
So let’s get running...
Personally, I like Under Armour. I have no issues with their retail clothing — of which my family and I own quite a bit of at the moment. For the kids; it’s fair priced, fits well, wears well, and works just fine for their everyday use. My daughter has recently shifted more towards Adidas, as she likes their styles and options better. As for me... I just don’t care all that much. I’m pretty active with outdoor activities, sports, and coaching duties and wear a lot of UA gear. It does the job and looks fine.
As for Notre Dame’s stuff — it’s fine too. The uniforms are clean and look great. For those of you that trash Under Armour for the alternate uniforms over the years that you don’t like... pay a little more attention. Nike and Adidas are also guilty of some truly terrible alternate uniforms across the sport, as these things are the very definition of “hit or miss”. Besides, Notre Dame has to sign off on all of these designs, so there is plenty of blame to go around.
This isn’t a personal problem for me, but recent history shows that Under Armour is having a problem within its own business.
Last year, Under Armour began a plan to restructure its sponsorship contracts all across the board. They did this to free up cash to use in different marketing areas. That’s fine and all — but it also means a slow and very public withdraw from being a major player in college athletics.
Under Armour cancelled its deal with the UCLA Bruins, which was a giant $255+ million dollar deal. It did the same with Cal and Cincinnati, and then Boston College did a new deal with New Balance and Adidas to end their relationship. The latest subtraction from their roster came last week with Hawaii.
However you want to spin “restructuring” it’s not a good look. It looks more like desperation and survival from an unstable company — and this is the company that Notre Dame has a giant deal with that includes a lot of stock as part of payment.
Now... I’m not a finance reporter, but having an unstable partner doesn’t sound like a good idea. It could mean a decline in services and product quality as well as any number of different things..
There’s also a problem with the kids. It’s no secret that the youth of the country prefer Nike, Jumpman, and Adidas over Under Armour. While I don’t think it’s been a big problem with Notre Dame’s recruiting effort, I firmly believe that something that doesn’t help you — hurts you.
When Notre Dame signed its 10 year deal with Under Armour in 2014, it was the most lucrative in college athletics history. Over that time, it’s been jumped over a number of times in dollars, and other brands continue to pull away in terms of “what’s cool” and what has the clout. Supposedly there are whispers that Notre Dame will be ready to move on to a different brand in 2024 — and perhaps Nike is an actual possibility. If they ever lean towards Jumpman — I might jump man. I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing Notre Dame football wear a basketball player on their uniforms. It would be worse than the day they tried to be the New York Yankees on the football field.
And that’s Notre Dame’s real problem with Under Armour right now — they’re still stuck with them for the next three years. Stuck, while the apparel gap seems to be widening and widening. We could go for some restructuring about right now.