News & Views

Cannes Lions / Kevin Plank and David Droga Discussion

by Chloe Markowicz


The founder of the US sportswear brand Under Armour spoke about the importance of trust in the client-agency relationship at the Cannes Lions Festival today and admitted to having been a bad client.

Last year, Under Armour and its agency Droga5 won the Grand Prix in Cyber for I Will What I Want, an interactive website starring supermodel Gisele Bündchen, but Kevin Plank acknowledged that the company didn’t always work well with its agency. ‘We sucked as a client for a long time because we didn’t know how to work with an agency,’ Plank said.


During a panel discussion with Droga5 founder David Droga entitled From Underdogs to Game-Changers, Plank explained that it took time for the agency to gain his trust. ‘Trust is something that’s built in drops and lost in buckets,’ he said. He said that in its early days Under Armour had chiefly handled its marketing in-house and that he was unwilling to give up control of the advertising process, but relegating this control is precisely what led to successful marketing output.

‘The most intimidating thing any client can do is to trust their agency,’ countered David Droga. He went on to say how he doesn’t believe in showy one-offs when it comes to marketing. ‘Consistency is the ultimate goal for any agency,’ said Droga. ‘I’d rather build the Empire State Building than throw some fireworks.’


Plank also talked about how important it is for Under Armour to put the brand at the heart of everything it does. ‘Nothing can be one-off, everything comes back to the brand,’ he said. He explained that this holds true when it comes to philanthropy as well. Any cause that Under Armour aligns itself with has to be part of its business. ‘You can’t have things that are just creative for creativity’s sake,’ he said. The Under Armour founder added that the brand’s perspective needs to come through in all its marketing: ‘Every one of our commercials has to have a point of view. It can’t just be a fluffy spot.’

Since being founded in 1996 Under Armour has become a $4bn business and has grown from a small challenger brand into real competition for Nike and Adidas. Speaking about rival sportswear brands, Plank said: ‘Our competitors are four and six times our size. But five years ago they were 14 and 18 times our size.’ But he explained that the company’s crystal clear focus on innovation means it is not so anxious about other sportswear brands are doing. ‘Our concern is what are we going to do if Amazon and Google start making shirts and shoes,’ he said.

Cannes Deconstructed