Under Armour’s performance in the sports advertising arena can be described in just one word: dominant.
The athletic-gear maker’s newest ad spot features Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps training hard in the pool as he preps for a final victory lap at the upcoming Rio Summer Olympics. The swimmer, already with a record 22 Olympic medals, has vowed that Rio will be his final Olympic bid. (Take that with a small grain of salt. He made the same promise after the 2012 Olympics only to return to the pool in 2014).
Still, with looming retirement in mind, Under Armour (UA) wisely focused the ad’s narrative on the end of his swimming career. The one-and-a-half minute spot is set to The Kills’ “The Last Goodbye.” With lyrics like “It’s the last goodbye I swear,” set to melancholy music, Phelps is seen swimming alone in a long pool lane surrounded by darkness. Phelps, who has been endorsed by Under Armour since 2010, also lifts weights in a gym and is seen doing other forms of training, all in Under Armour gear.
The full ad can be seen below:
“He is flat out the most heralded Olympian ever,” Adrienne Lofton, senior vice president global brand marketing at Under Armour, told Fortune. “You can say very little about what you know about Michael the man. What we wanted to show is that Michael–at 31 when he competes this summer, is all about competing.”
The ad is part of a broader campaign by Under Armour to piggyback off of the media attention that the Rio Olympics will generate for many key sports, including track events, basketball and swimming. Typically, athletic gear makers generate more innovative products in Olympic years, as well as spend more on big ad campaigns. Already, Under Armour has unveiled a few Olympics ad campaigns, including a spot that focuses on the U.S.A. women’s gymnastics team.
At an event in Baltimore, Under Armour unveiled new official uniforms for the Olympic teams it will work with this year, including the United States’ boxing and gymnastics squads. Individual athletes, including NBA star Stephen Curry and tennis player Andy Murray, are expected to individually wear UA-branded gear at the games.
That gives Under Armour a lot of potential to broaden the appeal of its gear, especially to international markets where it doesn’t yet compete too aggressively. Of the almost $4 billion in revenue Under Armour earned last year, 87% came from the North American market. Top rivals Nike (NKE) and Adidas (ADDYY) have far more exposure in markets outside their home bases, so Under Armour has a lot of room to grow.
While the Olympics are a great opportunity to show off the trademarked UA logo, with innovation and big bets on new gear comes some risk. Most notably, Under Armour faced a slew of bad press during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics when several speedskaters blamed the Baltimore company for their poor performance on the ice. A governing body later said the technology behind the suits wasn’t the issue.