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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

August 7, 2023 | 4 min read

In an approach that blended the capabilities of both human and machine, the brand set out to craft the optimal motivational speech for athletes.

Under Armour has leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) in an effort to take the pre-game hype-up speech to a whole new level.

Less than one week before the beginning of the 2023/2024 European Premier League football season, Under Armour unveiled ‘The ultimate team talk,’ a fiery 90-second locker room speech delivered by British actor Ashley Walters. The script for the galvanizing talk was crafted entirely by ChatGPT.

The sports apparel brand said the driving mission behind its new campaign was to create “the most inspirational team talk of all time, designed to help team sport athletes go all-out for something bigger than themselves, the team.”

The new ad is an extension of Under Armour’s 20-year-old 'Protect this house’ marketing campaign, which was relaunched in the US in March and launched across Europe today (August 7). The effort was led by London-based creative agency The Space Between.

Under Armour began the process of crafting ‘The ultimate team talk’ by identifying some of the key factors which contribute to motivation, inspiration and optimal performance among athletes.

The brand consulted sports psychology literature and conducted interviews with prominent European footballers like Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, Real Madrid’s Antonio Rüdiger, and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Laura Freigang. The insights gleaned from that research process were then used to identify “twelve elements that are likely to increase the effectiveness of a pre-game talk delivered by a coach or captain in a team sport environment,” as described on Under Armour’s website.

Element number five, “unleash the underdog,” for example, asserts that "turning a perceived disadvantage into a driving force can motivate athletes to perform better. This can help them see challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.”

Next, Under Armour’s campaign partner Hedgehog Lab (HHL) fed ChatGPT “a series of directions” informed by the research phase, the most important of which was to “Utilize language that invokes a fierce sense of camaraderie and a defender mentality.”

After optimizing for variables like tone and duration, ChatGPT generated the script (complete with delivery instructions for Walters), which then went through a multistep internal review process before being approved for production and release.

Reflecting on the creative process behind ‘The ultimate team talk,’ Under Armour emphasized its belief that the power of AI for marketing purposes can only be unlocked through human instinct and ingenuity.

“We were able to harness innovative AI technology to create ‘The ultimate team talk’ and prove that human-AI collaboration can fundamentally impact how athletes achieve peak performance,” the brand said.

“We also concluded that the conscientious application of [AI] models, like ChatGPT, can inspire but cannot replace humans’ deep understanding of consumers’ hearts and minds. At Under Armour, we pride ourselves on our ability to put the athlete at the center of everything we do, and it’s with those insights and firsthand experiences that we can join forces with new technology to defy convention and create something legendary.”

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