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How Stephen Curry Just Got Taught a Harsh Lesson in Business

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Marketing is easy.

You just need a lot of money and some famous faces to tell people that the product is great.

Then sit back, relax and watch the money cascade.

It’s a strategy that’s extremely tempting. 

After all, famous people are famous often because people love them and admire who they are.

Yet one brand is discovering that it isn’t quite so simple.

Under Armour must have thought it was very clever when it signed Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.

He has the perfect image. He’s witty. He’s confident, without slipping into unbearable arrogance. 

He’s like Tom Brady. Oh, the New England Patriots quarterback was signed to Under Armour too. As was pleasantly self-effacing star golfer Jordan Speith.

Ballet genius Misty Copeland signed on. As did commercial genius The Rock.

Under Armour just announced its third-quarter results. 

Revenue dropped 5 percent.

Dropped?  

Many will have their own views as to what might be happening.

What does seem clear is that Under Armour released some highly unattractive products to go with its (theoretically) highly attractive stars.

Remember the Oxblood Leather shoes? I hope not, for your sake. How about the Stephen Curry retired dad shoes? Yes, the latest Curry 4 shoes might look a little better, but they’re still on the pleasant, rather than the must-have spectrum.

In fact, when you think about many of the stars that Under Armour signed, they’re a touch, well, nice, aren’t they?

Don’t shoe and apparel buyers prefer a touch of rebellion and raucousness on their feet and around their bodies?

Clearly there were more factors involved. The peculiar — and frankly disturbing — trend toward athleisure, for example.

Then there’s the fact that Under Armour relied on struggling sports stores for much of its distribution.

Still, when you look at Under Armour’s apparel and shoes, what do you see? 

I see dull. A lot of dull. A quite all-encompassing level of dull. 

Indeed, Curry’s own teammate Kevin Durant — a Nike player — offered this caustic observation: “Nobody wants to play in Under Armours, I’m sorry.”

People can see through your marketing, you know. They actually look at the products.

It’s not as if Under Armour is the first to think stars cure all. 

Apple Music was another that pumped out star-laden ads, one after another, only to see Spotify maintain its lead in the streaming business. 

Uber is now trying to use NBA star Lonzo Ball to make you think it isn’t a nasty little company.

It isn’t so simple.

Under Armour needed products, not just stars.

Putting things right won’t exactly be easy. 

Once perceptions are created, it’s hard to shift them.

The company’s CEO Kevin Plank found that out when offered words of admiration for Donald Trump. That may not have helped in certain quarters. It certainly didn’t please Curry.

So now what does Under Armour do? 

Well, it’s just made a stunning move. Yes, it’s fired Curry and Brady.

No, wait. That’s not quite right.

In fact, two of its senior marketing executives have just, um, “mutually agreed to part ways” with the company.

Few marketing executives last long. Still, did these executives really have enough to work with?

Or was there a perception that with Curry and Brady on their side, winning would be easy?

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