The internet had a field day when Under Armour revealed the latest sneaker in its signature line for NBA star Stephen Curry, the Curry 2 “Chef.” “Middle-aged white dad shoes,” “Air Brunch,” and the “ugliest basketball shoes of all time” were a few of the kinder comments amid the explosion of mockery and memes.
But despite the merciless ridicule, Kevin Plank, Under Armour’s founder and CEO, says he feels the sneakers have been a win for his company, because they make it clear that Under Armour is finally on the radar as a footwear brand to watch. And it appears they’re actually selling, too.
Plank offered a surprisingly upbeat spin on the internet’s harsh reaction to the shoes while speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today (June 23), Fashion & Mash reports. “I thought oh my gosh, after 20 years in business doing this, people finally care,” he said. “That is everything you’re trying to do in marketing… the worst thing in life is apathy; when no one cares if you show up or not.”
David Droga, founder of Droga5 ad agency, said Plank emailed him excitedly when the mockery started spreading across the internet. “[T]his is potentially f*cking amazing, we should lean into this,” Plank reportedly wrote.
Whether directed to do so by Under Armour or not, the athletes the company sponsors certainly leaned in. Curry wore the shoes to a practice during the NBA finals, while NFL star Tom Brady and golfer Jordan Spieth both publicly praised the sneakers.
Undoubtedly Plank would have preferred an outburst of positive reaction, but he said one takeaway from the scale of the response was that Under Armour is finally a force to be reckoned with in the sneaker wars—that it has joined its much bigger footwear rivals, Nike and Adidas, in the race for US dominance. His company has worked to build its footwear business for years, but it wasn’t until it launched its line with Curry that it really established a presence in the market.
To bolster Plank’s point that all press is good press, the Curry 2 “Chef” also looks to be selling well. Under Armour has not released specific sales figures, but both Matt Powell, an analyst at research firm NPD Group, and Brandon Edler, a creative strategist for Finish Line, have commented on the shoes’ sales via their Twitter feeds.
While sneakerheads may hate the “Chefs,” they still appeal to a market that may be silent on Twitter but represents a large number of sales: exactly those middle-aged dads that Twitter users were mocking.
As Powell has pointed out before, one of Nike’s top sellers is the Air Monarch IV, a cross-training shoe that cool kids wouldn’t be seen dead in, but plenty of dads happily wear for a jog or to mow the lawn. Moms have similarly been a key to success for the footwear brand Skechers.
So keep making fun of Under Armour’s sneakers. Kevin Plank doesn’t mind.