Under Armour has signed its first female athlete in the UK after agreeing terms with Eniola Aluko, in a deal which the Chelsea and England international footballer hopes will cause other brands to take notice and follow suit.
The US sports brand has partnered with the 29 year-old in a multi-year deal, which was negotiated by MediaCom's Misha Sher, and will see Aluko join fellow UK brand ambassadors such as tennis star Andy Murray and heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua.
Misha Sher, head of sport and entertainment at MediaCom, will be working with Aluko and Under Armour as they shape campaigns over the coming seasons.
“The only way to really drive values out of partnerships like this is to work closely over an extended period of time,” says Sher. “We’ll be working to leverage Eniola’s profile through both her own social platforms and Under Armour to show what goes into her training and what makes her a successful athlete.”
Under Armour has been forging its place in English football for a number of seasons now, but the deal with Aluko represents a significant step forward for the brand, not just in strengthening its presence alongside the likes of Adidas and Nike, but in helping to elevate women’s football and the challenges which women still face in sport.
While the partnership will help Aluko further her professional life, she says the main aim of the partnership is to tell her story and inspire other women in their struggles to overcome the inequality which exists throughout society.
“It’s far more than a partnership,” says Aluko. “Performance, boots and technical apparel are a huge part of it, but for me it’s about my passion of engaging with women and engaging the next generation of girls who might have problems with confidence and overcoming adversity.”
To achieve this brands and athletes need to share similar values which they can advocate through a partnership, which is why Aluko decided to sign with Under Armour.
“I feel like I share genuine brand values with them in terms of relentless commitment, work ethic and the hunger and passion for achievement. These are part of my story, whether it’s being the only girl in a boys’ team at eight years-old and having to deal with coaches really taking issue with it or all the people who thought I’d never make it.
“A lot of brands have these values but not all of them are bringing them to life by telling the stories of females which can inspire other women, not just in sport but in all aspects of life.”
While many brands widely support female athletes, Aluko says that often this is on a product level and in order to further women’s sport, the partnerships need to grow to the extent that female athletes become the face of a brand or an integral part of their campaigns.
With Under Armour’s success and continuously expanding presence in the sporting world, the partnership with Aluko has the potential to make other brands take notice and hopefully follow suit. Moves like this can go some way to elevating women’s sports to align with audiences that are clearly willing to tune in.
“If you look at the world cup last year the viewing for the bronze medal game was close to 3 million people, and that was at midnight UK time too. The viewing figures on the BBC for the World Cup alone were absolutely huge so it’s clear that the audiences have an appetite for it.
“I think the issue is how that translates into a week-by-week engagement from fans and that’s just not going to happen when the games are broadcast on BT Sport where half the population isn’t going to see them."