We had strictly been a brand in Utah and the Western U.S. We are establishing ourselves as a national brand. When people see us in the unique, cool uniforms and are talking about us in North Carolina, or Michigan or throughout the entire country that is the brand expanding. —Ann Argust, Associate Athletic Director of Marketing, University of Utah
Editor's note: This is part four of a five-part series on how athletics apparel contracts impact programs in the state of Utah. Start at part one: Start at part one: What collegiate apparel sponsorships mean to BYU, Utah and USU.
The University of Utah is redesigning its football and basketball uniforms, looking to integrate a mountain theme that will be applied to all Utah's athletic teams in coming years. The new uniforms will debut in the winter of 2013 with the men's basketball team, and football will follow shortly after.
As it has undertaken such an effort, the school turned to a valuable partner in Under Armour to help create an attractive look. "The U" apparently trusts and enjoys its relationship with Under Armour; the school renewed its apparel contract with the company through 2017.
The U and UA
Under Armour is a relatively new company. Taking off after 2000, it revolutionized athletics by providing moisture-wicking apparel for all sports. Once it forayed into footwear in 2006, the company began making a push for university apparel contracts.
The University of Utah was one of its early adopters.
“Under Armour is a leader in athletic apparel. Having the resources we do with Under Armour to not only have our teams in the best technology and the best apparel with the best performance, but also from a brand perspective we have resources that help us come up with a look and cutting edge feel for our athletic department,” Ann R. Argust, associate athletic director at the school said.
Utah's new uniforms will serve not just as a new way for fans to represent themselves and the school they love, but a representation of a brand that is evolving. Argust is helping in that evolution.
“We had strictly been a brand in Utah and the Western U.S. We are establishing ourselves as a national brand. When people see us in the unique, cool uniforms and are talking about us in North Carolina, or Michigan or throughout the entire country that is the brand expanding.”
Clearly, Under Armour is a valuable business and marketing partner to the University of Utah.
Under the terms of the current agreement Utah is entitled to:
—Quarterly “rights” payments reaching a specified annual amount.
—Product allotments of a certain amount, based on retail price of the product.
—Performance bonus payments for specific milestones in specific sports including national and conference championships in all sports, BCS and bowl game appearances and NCAA tournament wins.
—Wholesale pricing on additional product.
—A specified dollar amount of advertising and promotion spend.
Utah is required to:
—Wear exclusively Under Armour products.
—Provide feedback on performance and wear testing of products.
—Provide 20 “best-available” tickets to all home football games, 10 tickets to each basketball home game, 10 tickets to any post-season games, 10 tickets to all away games and four tickets to all other sport home games.
—Make head coaches available for one annual appearance at a promotional event.
What it’s worth to Utah
Through a Government Records Access and Management Act request, the Deseret News received a copy of the University of Utah's contract with Under Armour. The contract explicitly requests the pricing provisions of the contract be redacted as the company considers them trade secrets.
Even though the dollar amounts are redacted, the number of ways the school may be compensated under the contract indicate this is likely a favorable deal for the school.
The same trade secrecy obligations do not apply to other universities who have made their agreements with Under Armour public record. Such contracts can be used comparatively as a measure of the value of the University of Utah’s contract with the company.
Last year, the University of South Florida signed a deal with Under Armour that for 2012-2013, granted the school $1 million in product allowance, $625,000 in cash payments and $150,000 in marketing spend. That makes the contract worth just under $2 million a year. The bonuses range from $15,000 for a bowl appearance to $75,000 for a BCS bowl bid, to $250,000 for a national championship.
Certainly Utah’s deal is different, but South Florida's numbers serve as a good comparison considering each school's size and the scope of their athletic programs.
Monetary compensation isn’t the only value the school gets from the relationship. Argust specifically mentioned Under Armour's clothing technology continues to be cutting edge. In fact, the company recently signed USA Gymnastics through 2020. As new products are added to meet the needs of those world-class gymnasts, Utah's nationally-recognized gymnastics team will also have access to them.
Additionally, the school sees value in the special uniforms in terms of exposure and recruiting. Special events, such as the camouflage uniforms the football team wore in 2010, become a story for the newsmedia and put the school in the spotlight.
And as the other in-state schools stated, the gear is important to recruits.
“If you’re a young male or female looking to find an institution to fit your needs both athletically and academically, you want to know, ‘What am I wearing? What kind of shoes do I have?’” Argust said.
Editor’s note: This is part four in a five-part series on how athletics apparel contracts affect Utah’s major universities. Part one and part two explains the nature of these contracts while part three deals with Utah State and part five looks at BYU’s agreement with Nike.