Under Armour’s Stacey Ullrich on Turning Moments Into Movements at Purpose-Led Brands


The confluence of a bitter presidential campaign, the reaction to the death of George Floyd and the pandemic pushed prominent brands to strongly pursue purpose-driven marketing as a defining strategy for 2020.

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2020 was the year many brands, including Nike, Pepsico and P&G, developed funding, policy changes, advertising and more to address social injustices. Now, the work continues into 2021 and beyond, which begs the question: what exactly does it mean to be a purpose-led brand? And how do you do it?

This week, Stacey Ullrich, head of global community impact and community affairs at Under Armour, sat down with nitronet executive editor Stephanie Paterik at the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit to discuss how exactly Under Armour leads with purpose—and how other brands can, too.

According to Ullrich, a brand’s purpose is not just to make money.

“If your vision and your number one priority is about making money, eventually people will learn that’s what you stand for and it will be hard to continue to go on that journey,” she said.

Instead, a brand’s main purpose is to be a good social and global citizen.

“Profit and purpose, when done right, can live together,” Ullrich added. “And those two really can be the foundation of how you grow a purpose-led organization.”

There are times, however, when profit and purpose may seem at odds. But in those moments, brands with well-defined value propositions are able to make decisions based on what they stand for.

“What the word ‘act’ in activism means to you is the number one thing you have to do,” she said. “And you have to be comfortable even when those values may not resonate across your entire consumer base.”

Ullrich noted when brands act consistently with their values, consumers learn what they stand for and then hopefully respect those values even if they don’t share them.

And because a company is made up of employees who are also its consumers, fostering a clear st.

“You’re not of the community, you’re actually in the community,” Ullrich said. “And you really need to listen to what is needed … internally as well as externally and then understand what can you bring to the equation.”

That means not just focusing on providing financial support to organizations in need, but figuring out how to create stronger communities by fully activating the entire organization.

“There’s so much more social capital and, frankly, technical expertise that sits within their organization. If they’re not offering that to their partners, they’re only reaching kind of the top of what is possible,” she added. “So I think internally, it’s about building the case of this is your community, too, and asking what do you want to see?”

‘How do we take a moment and turn it into movement?’

One example is Under Armour’s ongoing Run to Vote initiative, which, until Nov. 3, sought to “increase voter turnout by putting as many voters on the playing field as we can.” But the effort continues and Ullrich noted the brand calls it an initiative instead of a campaign because “campaigns have a start and an end date.”

“I think one of our focuses really is how do we take a moment and turn it into movement?” she said. “For us, the Run to Vote initiative is the foundation that we’ve built around the belief that we all have an opportunity to participate in civic engagement.”

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