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A Conversation With Jack Swarbrick On UA Partnership

Jan 21, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

JackAaron

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Jack Swarbrick (University of Notre Dame Director of Athletics) and Kevin Plank (Founder and CEO of Under Armour) hosted a press conference announcing a partnership between the two entities to outfit the athletic department of Notre Dame over the foreseeable future.

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Swarbrick to go over the new apparel deal for Notre Dame. Trying to get away from the traditional press conference type questions, I enlisted the help of @IrishElvis and @ManCaveQB to give me questions they had and qualms they had heard from fans of the Fighting Irish.

The 15-minute conversation with Swarbrick was eye-opening for me as it truly swayed me from “trusting” his decision to being “excited” about his decision.

Here is my conversation with Swarbrick, in his own words (I have italicized the lines I found the most interesting):
Q: Why Under Armour? Why now?

Swarbrick: “The (adidas) contract gave us the opportunity to explore our options because it was expiring and in business you want to explore your options and the market and we did that. When it comes to why Under Armour it is not due to dissatisfaction with adidas it was that the level of support Under Armour was willing to give us was significantly more. Importantly it gives us the biggest apparel deal in College Athletics and that’s where Notre Dame should be. The energy the partnership provides and the fact we can take stock in lieu of cash and no one else has that. That speaks to Under Armour belief and the growth of the company and the future of Under Armour. The assessment of Under Armour as a company and its youth and future was a factor.”

Q: Anything in the works with the football uniforms or are we staying status quo?

Swarbrick: “We are staying status quo, it is hard to identify anyone in college football who is more rigorous about maintaining their uniform than Auburn. They don’t modify anything about it and Under Armour is completely comfortable with that. We have made tweaks but it’s been where the ND logo is and we will stay in that ballpark. The uniform you see when you come to the stadium will look like the traditional Notre Dame uniform.”

Q: Who did you go through on the academic side of things for this deal?

Swarbrick: “We went through licensing and general counsel and the university leadership”

Q: What advantages outside of money does the Under Armour contract bring to athletics and outside of athletics?

Swarbrick: “Opportunities to do research on technologies and opportunities in digital media to promote the brand that elevate the program and elevate the awareness. We had great apparel from adidas and we will have great apparel from Under Armour, but with more flexibility to do stuff. Most of the differences will be seen on the larger scale than within the locker”

Q: What happens to the sports that are not specific like basketball where the product line is a bit weak?

Swarbrick: “There are sports where Under Armour is ahead like lacrosse and some common perceptions out there are not reality. I was thrilled when we won the title in soccer, but I think Maryland’s (Under Armour school) shoes are just fine. Auburn (Under Armour school) just played in the National Championship game in college football. Stephen Curry (Under Armour Athlete) is not wearing a shoe he does not have one hundred percent confidence and he is an all-star guard in the NBA. There are some places like golf where they don’t have the line at all and we will work to make sure our student-athletes are not disadvantaged because of it. We will make sure that our student athletes have what they need.

Q: Has Under Armour talked about lines for next year and how has that differed from years past?

Swarbrick: “The contract does not run the way our previous contracts have run, Year one is pretty basic and year two will focus on design elements and we hope to build a greater continuity with our uniforms and Notre Dame lacks that. There are programs across the country like Kansas and Texas that when you see any sport you know who they are when they get off the bus. I am looking at year two as our chance to do that.”

 

Q: Will Under Armour figure out the correct gold and continuity with the uniform and have they talked to you about it?

Swarbrick: “There is not a lot you can do in this first year but they left here with a helmet and football pants to get a better match. In fairness to adidas we changed the helmet independently and next year for anybody would be the year to catch up on the helmet.”

Q: Talk about the Shamrock Series excitement and abilities for Under Armour to make their mark on Notre Dame football each year”

Swarbrick: “Everyone sees that as a great platform with the game nationally televised and developing into a valuable brand, Under Armour is excited to work with us on this endeavor. I have loved the controversy that swirls around the uniforms every year and that is all good for me, I want people talking about the uniforms on the one occasion we change them and we will continue to do that.”

Q: What will this Under Armour partnership bring to Notre Dame?

Swarbrick: “The word energy comes to mind when I think about this partnership and I think we will become a laboratory for equipment that other schools will want to use. I think we will want to do a lot with the two brands and maybe get into the content business with some things we can do together.”

Q: Did you reach out to other AD’s at Under Armour schools?

Swarbrick: “Yeah, our coaches and equipment people definitely reached out to other schools. The most interesting thing was that the Athletic Directors (at Under Armour schools) reached out to me. Some of the calls may have been prompted by Under Armour, but many I know was not. Most of the conversations went something like; “I just want to let you know Under Armour works really well for us.” I know a lot of it was genuine calls from my colleagues that Under Armour has been great for their

school.”

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