Under Armour Strikes Licensing Deal with MLB (Or How Licensing Can Help to Grow Your Brand)


For years, sportswear companies have partnered up with sports leagues by way of licensing deals. As a brand, licensing deals are a great way to extend your brand into new markets and broaden your customer reach. Under Armour recently snagged a licensing deal with Major League Baseball, taking market shares from sports apparel giant Majestic Athletic.

Beginning with the 2020 season, Under Armour will manufacture on-field uniforms for Major League Baseball. The sports retailer will share the rights with Fanatics, the nation’s largest seller of online sports gear (which already runs the online MLB Shop), to produce and customize jerseys and sell them at retail. New Era will continue to provide headwear for the league.

Under Armour: from a basement in DC to a billion dollar company

Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, has a story reminiscent of other wildly successful entrepreneurs. As a college student playing football, Plank was tired of wearing sweat-soaked cotton tee shirts during practice and games. He had the idea to use synthetic material to help wick away moisture, keeping the wearer dry – a signature of Under Armour apparel. As with most great ideas, this caught on quickly on college campuses, with the NFL eventually purchasing his product. Plank was able to move from his grandmother’s basement to a proper office and manufacturing facility in Baltimore, MD. From there, his brand grew to a 16 billion dollar business. For entrepreneurs, this is the sort of story that would have inspired them to make the leap of faith into starting their own business.

Taking market share from the giants

Smaller brands may feel intimidated when it comes to the idea of poaching market share from the “giants” in their industry. If Under Armour can inspire smaller brands to do anything, it would be to continue seeking out and educating industry insiders on their products. Much like Under Armour, most brands start off by identifying something that is missing in their industry, and using that idea to develop a product, seeking out whatever next steps are necessary to propel them into the next level of growth.

So, why licensing agreements?

This business model may work best for your brand. Many entrepreneurs are great at creating ideas and products, but marketing and business planning is a whole other ball game. Licensing can help to successfully ease a growing brand into that area of the business. When interviewing or checking out a potential licensee, focus on their ability to effectively commercialize the product or idea. Smaller brands should consider companies with a proven track record of marketing and selling similar products.

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