World's most creative partnerships: Under Armour & Droga5

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It's been three years since Kevin Plank asked David Droga to help his testosterone-fueled brand reach women. The rest is history in the making

To commemorate the 2016 Cannes Lions, Campaign is taking a look at the world's most vital creative partnerships between chief marketing officers and chief creative officers. Check back all week for more entries. 

In 2013, Kevin Plank, chief executive and founder of a fast-growing sportswear brand from Baltimore, approached one of the hottest creative agencies in New York to help his testosterone-fueled brand appeal to a female audience.

Three years down the line, Droga5 and Under Armour’s creative relationship is flourishing. Droga5’s remit was recently expanded beyond women, as agency of record, while Under Armour pushes on with its ambitions to join Nike and Adidas as a leading global sports brand.

The creative partnership between Plank and David Droga — both founders of businesses that aim to challenge the status quo — has resulted in a string of great work and creative accolades. 

The first major work to come out of Droga5 and Under Armour’s partnership was the viral "I Will What I Want" campaign. 

The ads, featuring the ballerina Misty Copeland and supermodel Gisele Bündchen, have been praised for their representations of strong women, which shatter tired gender stereotypes. 

The Bündchen ad, in which the model fought off negative comments from social media projected onto her, won a Cyber Grand Prix at Cannes and a gold Effie, among other awards.

More recently, Droga5 produced the first soccer ad for Under Armour, as the brand looks to capitalize on the growing interest in the sport in the US. 

The agency has also created ads featuring US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and the US women’s gymnastics team, carrying a similar empowerment message to previous ads.

With 2016 being a huge year for sports, and Under Armour having grand plans for international growth, the industry can expect more exciting work in the pipeline from this dynamic creative partnership.

Kevin Plank 

Founder and chief executive of Under Armour, speaking in 2015

David Droga is a visionary and fearless in his pursuit of culturally impactful creative. He and his team have been true partners in helping us elevate and express our own brand story, as we look to inspire athletes all over the world. Together, we have created iconic work and look forward to many more chapters to come.

David Droga 

Founder and creative chairman, Droga5 

Kevin has built a phenomenal company with his own will, ambition and talent. You can feel that in the company — there is such clarity, vision and drive. 

The Under Armour brand is a phenomenal success story but hadn’t performed so well in the women’s category. It was built on testosterone and knew that to get to where it wanted, it had to get to a female audience. It was almost a challenge brief, to launch the women’s division: if you prove it on this tough brief, we will give you the next work.

We were fortunate that Kevin listened and was very curious. He didn’t pretend he had all the answers, but had a very strong opinion about creative because he is a creative person. He wasn’t gun-shy. 

When we told him about the Gisele Bündchen work — that we wanted to project real, negative things onto a supermodel — I knew most clients wouldn’t want to do that. He thought it was bold, brave and the right thing to do. He is a great supporter; he believes in something.

I have always been a straight shooter. People know I’m a hard worker, and I think that resonates well with Kevin. I want to be judged by my output and result.

Anyone who knows me knows I have always been in a rush, but I think I’ve met my match — Kevin is more in a rush than I am, and I kind of like that. It is not ambition at all costs, but there is no apology about wanting to be the best or to win.

There is a "no bullshit" factor in our conversations. We talk more in text than in meetings. It’s really honest.

We have the same ambition. I’m trying to build a great creative agency that has global impact and he is building a great brand with global impact. We’re aligned.

We are trying to do exceptional things all the time. Both of us are [leading] challenger brands. Having bravado and living up to that is difficult, but I like it.

They say the most intimidating thing any client can do is trust you, as it takes out the alibis. I believe Kevin has faith and trust in me. I like the fact that I’ve had to earn it.

It is probably the most honest relationship I’ve had. There is absolute clarity in the ambition, and mutual respect.

We have done a lot of work we are proud of, but are only just getting started. This year is a notch above the others. I think there is destiny there.

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