Michael Phelps has signed a 3-year endorsement deal with athletics apparel maker Under Armour for an undisclosed amount of money, the USA Today reports. This is his first major sponsorship signing since the well-publicized photos of him with a marijuana pipe that surfaced soon after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he won a record 8 gold medals.
Phelps remains under contract with Speedo for swimwear products, but will now become officially affiliated with Under Armour for his dry-land gear, which is a huge part of his training. Phelps says that he has long used Under Armour for his dry-land training, and so this deal simply made sense.
Under Armour is trying to challenge the likes of Nike and Adidas in the athletic shoes and apparrels market, and although rumors have circulated about them potentially making a move into the swimwear market, the company denies that Phelps’ signing has anything to do with that.
When asked about possibly challenging Speedo, Under Armour Senior VP responded that “Everything is on the table,” Battista says, “but right now we’re totally focused in Michael’s case on training apparel and footwear.”
If they were to make a move into the swimwear industry, it would likely violate Phelps’ contract with Speedo, and he would have to break one deal or the other.
Although the exact value of the deal was undisclosed, sports marketing expert Bob Dorfman believes that this sort of deal should be worth around $5 million. Among other reasons, the deal makes sense because Phelps is based at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, and Under Armour’s corporate base is in Baltimore.
Phelps’ first Under Armour commercial debuted during the NFL Combine, and can be seen below.
Interestingly, Under Armour has chosen a very controversial group to sponsor its products. Georges St-Pierre, a UFC fighter, was accused a year ago of greasing himself up during fights, which is a highly detestable act in that sport. Dez Bryant, who recently finished his career at Oklahoma State, was suspended for the last half of the season after receiving improper benefits from boosters and then lying to the NCAA about it. Brandon Jennings, a rookie in the NBA with the Milwuakee Bucks, challenged the NBA’s ruling that players must be 1 year removed from high school to enter the league. Whereas most players spend this year in college, Jennings started a trend by spending this year playing professionally in Europe.
Along with Phelps’ marijuana flap and DWI charges when he was only 19, this ad extends Under Armour’s edgy image. Under Armour also aligned itself with the Texas Tech football program, which was, until very recently, led by renegade coach Mike Leach, who considered himself to be somewhat of a pirate; and NFL player Ray Lewis, who was charged with obstruction of justice in a murder trial in 2000.
This is in clear contrast to Nike, who has aligned themselves with more clean-cut athletes like Michael Jordan, Dawyne Wade, Ken Griffey Jr, Derek Jeter, and Lance Armstrong.