A view from Unruly

Under Armour performs successful gymnastic move with US Olympic team

Social video expert Unruly reviews the latest viral by Under Armour.

"Edited at a furious pace to the soundtrack of MIA’s Matangi, we see these women trying, failing, injuring themselves and, ultimately, succeeding at their chosen sport"

8.0 / 10

As its name suggests, Under Armour doesn’t really have time for subtlety.

We’re talking about a brand that sells a range of spandex and sports clothing to athletes and calls it "armour". And like many athletics brands before it, Under Armour’s advertising efforts tend to operate in terms of superlatives: fastest, strongest, loudest, longest – all in pursuit of some greater goal. 

Under Armour’s new spot, the latest entry in the brand’s ‘Rule Yourself’ campaign, is no exception.

While previously the brand used its power to multiply Steph Curry, the shooter with NBA side Golden State Warriors, its latest outing cuts back on the flights of fancy in favour of hard realism. Standing in as the epitome of brute strength, dedication and superb athleticism this time? The US Women’s gymnastics team. Of course, anyone who’s watched Olympic gymnastics knows what a Herculean effort it is. I mean, how many professional sports involve both front flips and co-ordinated ribbon movements? 

However, advertising hasn’t always seen it that way. While ads and athletics have had a long and fruitful relationship, usually this has been limited to a small number of sports, and, typically, followed the efforts of men. You’ve probably seen more ads featuring David Beckham than all female athletes combined.

For this reason, the latest ‘Rule Yourself’ execution is a refreshing twist on a tried-and-true genre. Following the gymnastics team - all in their early 20s at most - as they perfect their manoeuvres day and night, the spot has the feel of a gritty training montage.

Trying, failing, injuring and succeeding 

Watching these athletes stretch, jump and push themselves toward gymnastic perfection feels like a workout in and of itself. Edited at a furious pace to the soundtrack of MIA’s Matangi, we see these women trying, failing, injuring themselves and, ultimately, succeeding at their chosen sport.

Stylistically, it’s redolent of Reebok’s 'Freak show' , an ad we love, which gave the same indomitable spirit to the world of crossfit. Even the tagline ‘It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light’ has a strong, life-coach sentiment to it. Like Reebok, Under Armour is keen to push diligent, difficult exercise as a form of self-improvement. This is not the only spot the brand has released so far as part of ‘Rule Yourself’. 

Its counterpart follows the Manchester United winger Memphis Depay as he undertakes a similarly mad training routine, including ice baths, cycling in an oxygen mask and running at night under a spooky spotlight. The format is very much the same, except for its focus on a single up-and-coming player, rather than an entire team. It is a slightly more conventional sports ad and this shows in its sharing performance.

Looking at the figures, the US gymnasts have far out-stripped their footballing colleague. In fact, it’s one of Under Armour’s most-successful video campaigns yet, with, at the time of writing, more than 60,000 shares since release. The brand is also due to release a short film starring legendary swimmer Michael Phelps at the end of March. Perhaps the 18-time gold medal winner can borrow a little magic from these incredible athletes.