By Barry Janoff
July 8, 2013: It may be the middle of baseball season, but Under Armour is putting on its football pads, helmets and other gear in a campaign designed to show that the real game begins before the season starts.
And in case the tough, hard-hitting action in the commercial wasn't proof enough, Under Armour enlisted spokesman Ray Lewis, former linebacker with the defending NFL Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens, to work as executive producer and as a consultant on the script, creative and editing.
"Ready for August," part of Under Armour's "I Will" umbrella global marketing campaign, will be anchored by a TV spot breaking July 15 on ESPN during the MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby. The commercial will then air on Adult Swim, BET, ESPN, ESPN2, MLB Network, MTV and MTV2.
The spot will air in 30- and 60-second versions. A three-minute long-form version features behind-the-scenes action from the set with Lewis.
Support will include digital at Complex, Facebook, ESPN, NFL, Pandora, Stack, Turner, Undertone, USA Today High School Sports, VEVO and YouTube. Print includes Baltimore Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and ESPN the Magazine.
Under Armour said that the storyline would be told internationally showcasing different sports in such markets as England, Japan, China, Canada and Mexico.
Under Armour is using the campaign to feature football performance gear including Gameday Armour, the UA Highlight MC Football Cleat, UA Highlight Football Gloves and Under Armour Alter Ego Baselayer.
According to Lewis, "Under Armour was a part of my career on the field, and even though my playing days are over, having the opportunity to reach young athletes with empowering and positive messages is something I look forward to in the next chapter in my life. You show the pure football scenes, the look on their faces, and that will connect immediately with anyone who has ever played the game."
The TV spot opens with young players heading to the practice field via train, truck, bikes and on foot. They team concept comes later — first you have to make the team. Guys put on their gear, then go through tough drills, tackling, running, sweating and in pain. It ends with a chorus chanting the Under Armour mantra, "I will."
"Ready for August" comes with the attitude, "Time to take someone's spot." During the commercial, you hear a coach yelling, "Oh, yeah, baby. this is August! This is August! Who's gonna step up?" (See the full spot here.)
"You show the pure football scenes, the look on their faces, and that will connect immediately with anyone who has ever played the game."
"The team sports adaption of the 'I Will' campaign represents our brand's core commitment to tell real and unfiltered moments in the journey of the next generation athlete," Steve Battista, svp-creative for Baltimore-based Under Armour, said in a statement. "This brand knows football, but having Ray Lewis acting as an executive producer helped narrow the creative focus into some of the most inspirational stories of his own life, from the coach picking up players in the truck, to Ray racing his rival every day before practice, to the day he finally broke through and made starting defense. He gave us a special perspective on a new storyline – the one-on-one battle within the team."
Lewis retired from the NFL with two Super Bowl wins (XXXV, XLVII), 13 Pro Bowl selections and as a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s. He had planned to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this week in an effort to raise awareness and financial aid for World Serve International and Pros For Africa, but had to withdraw due to a foot injury and related fever, according to organizers.