Thursday, November 14, 2013

Under the Armor of Tom Brady: UGGs

by Marine Blondiaux

I love my UGGs.  As the temperatures drop and winter approaches, I am looking forward to wearing my sheepskin UGG boots. They are cozy, comfortable and the ultimate caretakers of my toes. When I put them on, I feel assured that my feet are really looked after.

My UGGs have gotten quite a few compliments:
  • "They look so comfy..."
  • "Those UGGs got the Hollywood vibe..."
  • "They look so warm..."  
My UGG wearing friends also tell me that they wear the boots for the same reasons that I do. UGGs are the epitomy of comfort. UGG wearers know the boots also sometimes get criticized for their lack of aesthetic appeal. But, some of the people who gave the "thumbs up" to my UGGs also poke fun at the guys who wear UGG boots. "Wimpy boots for guys," they say.

I started thinking about that. Where did this image come from? After all, the brand started off making footwear for men and designed a lot of its line with men in mind. The name "UGGs" is gender neutral. The communications from the company trend to be pretty gender neutral too - both men and women can be seen wearing UGGs in the ads. (The brand does not use extensive advertising for their products, but prefers to create brand loyalty through word-of-mouth). Plus, there are a lot of A list trendsetting male  and female celebrities who sport them (e.g. Brad Pitt, Shia Labeouf, Blake Lively, Kate Hudson) and they seem to straddle a wide demographic too (e.g. Ronnie Wood, Selena Gomez). Finally, the core product from the Australian brand is comfort feet and keeping winter toes toasty warm. These are aspects that are relevant to both genders. Yet, the vibe of the brand still skews female.

It seems that UGGs wants to change this, get back to its roots, and win more male customers.

Recently I read articles on how Tom Brady, the famous quarterback for the New England Patriots (also known for being Gisele Bundchen’s hubby) signed an agreement with the brand to become its endorser for the new season. In an interview conducted with The Boston Mail, Brady states one of his main reasons for becoming the brand’s endorser as being how much he loves and wears these boots. Could Brady be the answer to de-mything the girly vibe of UGGs for guys? Brady on the surface seems to be a really smart choice. For many men, he's a superstar guy's role model.  Brady is a respected, MVP-winning, elite professional athlete in America's favorite sport. He's handsome, muscled, and married to a world-famous supermodel. Those aspirational aspects of Tom Brady should all be exciting for many (potential) male consumers of UGGs.

But there is something that makes me second-guess the Brady endorser decision...something Brady fans already know. Brady is currently also an endorser for and owner of the sportswear company, Under Armor. This is brand is a hyper competitive, gritty, no-holds-barred, hard-core athletic performance brand. It is the brand to wear in the clutch play of  on play-off game 7 overtime. This is the image more aligned with Tom Brady the athlete.

This got me thinking, what is the dominant perspective on Tom Brady? Is he the chill, laid back LA vibe guy who is concerned about how cozy his feet are or the testosterone-charged beast on the football field? On one hand, reconciling the Under Armor Tom Brady and UGG's Tom Brady may turn out to be confusing  proposition and a risky choice for Under Armor, UGGs and Tom himself.  On the other hand, if the Brady brand  is such a strong representation of a manliness admired by both men and women- the balance of chill and beast,  then Brady may be exactly what UGGs needs and Under Armor can handle.

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