Stuff We Love: UnderArmour's Unlike Any

July 26, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

"The systemic structure built to keep me in place is the stage I dance on."

Does that sound like it came out of a sports ad to you?

Well, it did. It came from the beautiful new Droga5 NY-led campaign for activewear brand UnderArmour called "Unlike Any." 

Written and performed by spoken word artist Saul Williams, these words are a part of a unique story centered around New York City Principal Ballerina Misty Copeland. She and Williams are one set of 5 videos that celebrate the achievements and abilities of female athletes. 

Now other than the beautiful lyrics and captivating (though at times dizzying) visuals, these spots have caught our eye as Stuff We Love because they tell narratives that are typically foreign to the average sports ad. 

What's typical? Those gritty, almost macho-like ads that focus on training footage or inner monologues as Creative Review pointed out

Though formats exist for a reason and the age-old colloquialism of "if it's not broke, don't fix it" rings true in many different ways, falling victim to these two things means work that presents only singular views. 

Rarely do sports ads feature the artistic forms of being an athlete. Close-ups on flexed muscles are great, but watch how UnderArmour zeroes in the form of Taekwondo black belt Zoe Zhang. 

Or how Jessie Graff is shown floating through all her stunts. 

Runners Alison Désir and Natasha Hastings practically glide through each movement.

Suddenly athleticism meets the arts. These two themes usually don't mix. In fact, most of the time they're pegged as polar opposites where people do one or the other because they can't do the other option. 

That's what makes this messaging so powerful.

Droga5 retold the sports narrative from the other side of it, the side where the grace within the ability shines through. 

Coupled with poetry, the message behind the adds comes across much more poignantly.

Training for hours on end a day isn't necessarily relatable to the average person. Talking about systemic barriers around race or taking time to be present with oneself does. A voiceover of the action by some baritone narrator would have been impersonal. The spoken word is a nice touch because of the emotion that inevitably goes with it. 

Oh and it's 2017 - featuring women (yes, even in a sports ad) shouldn't have to be a unique approach. But alas, we still appreciating the messaging of empowerment. 

It all comes down to brands being willing to approach their narratives from an unfamiliar perspective. 

As marketers, when we do that, we are able to tell stories that are much more tonally important to audiences. Now that is how to make lasting impressions. 

Congrats to UnderArmour and Droga5 NY for a story well-told!

Agency: Droga5 NY
Creatives: Doug Hamilton, Kia Heinnen, Castro Desroches, Diana Perez
Director: Georgia Hudson, Agile Films

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