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Under Armour - Ravens Partnership Press Conference

Posted Jun 9, 2012

Includes Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti And Under Armour Founder/CEO Kevin Plank

With Under Armour being a locally-founded entity, how long did it take for you to approach the Ravens with the idea of this partnership? (Joe Platania)
(PLANK) “Slowly and persistently over a long period of time, maybe. But, I think it has been aspirational for us forever. But it took the vision of an owner to be able to persevere through deliberations and thoughtfulness to finally agree to give Under Armour a shot at this [opportunity], which I think is a very big and historic moment for our company, too. It is the ability for us to lock two great Baltimore brands together and tell a terrific story. I think we have the ability to make each other better and build a better story and for … You should talk. I shouldn’t talk, you should talk. Loosen ‘em up.”

(BISCIOTTI) “You’re our guest here, now it’s yours. Look, Under Armour Performance Center, it’s already up. Obviously, Kevin and I have been friends for over a decade and really close. I don’t want to stretch it and say I’m a bit of a mentor to him, but there’s not many people that Kevin can go to and talk about the things that he does building his business. So, it’s certainly not the brand; I can’t help him there. But, we’ve had a lot of long talks, and it’s always been about how I’ve always admired him. I always felt like I had been through some of the wars that he’s going through, trying to build something bigger and better than his competitors. And really, that’s where our friendship, our love of Maryland sports, kind of got us closer. Our mutual friendship with Gary Williams got us closer, and we have the same things in common – trying to balance family and building a business and still have time to drink a few beers with your friend. So, when you said how long did it take? I don’t really know. I don’t know when we started. It was never an official start to negotiations. We just always talked about it, but we’d go from talking about brands and reputations in town, and the next thing you know we’d be talking about rebuilding a field for Mervo [High School in Baltimore]. And he was talking about the things that he was doing in the inner city. Like I said, it really wasn’t Kevin and I. We kind of always talked about the brands, because they mean something to us. It was actually [former Ravens vice president of corporate sales and partnerships] Mark Burdett and [Ravens vice president of national partnerships and sales] Kevin Rochlitz that came to me and said, ‘The Under Armour deal is up this year, and so we’ve got to redo the deal.’ We had another sports apparel company integrated into our Ravens [press conference backdrop] in the last few years, and Kevin [Plank] didn’t like seeing that on these press conferences.”

(PLANK) “It was insulting.” (laughter)

(BISCIOTTI) “It was insulting. Well, at the time that we did that deal, Kevin said he was too busy going global to worry about Baltimore and the Ravens.” (laughter)

(PLANK) “I think you were mad at me at the time, too.”

(BISCIOTTI) “Anyway, they really came to us and said they took a second sweep last year and they want on our board, so we’re going to do some kind of integrated thing. But, you guys do a lot in the community, so we started thinking about making a presentation to them. And they kind of swallowed hard and said, ‘What do you think about making a bolder presentation to them and talking about renaming the Ravens facility?’ It took me two seconds, and I just said, ‘Only them. They’re the only ones that I would do it with, because I’m proud of their brand.’ I’m as proud of him and the Under Armour brand and what they’re accomplishing as what I am with our concerted effort to put the Ravens at the top of the NFL. So, that was it. I left it up to them and said make a presentation to me first. So, Kevin Rochlitz, who worked very hard at this, and Mark Burdett put this together. [I said,] ‘Make a presentation to Dick [Cass, Ravens president] and [me].’ Then I said, ‘I don’t like this, I don’t want to do this, I want to change that.’ So, they cleaned up the deal, and they made a presentation to Kevin’s people. I talked to Kevin and [told him] my guys are going to make a presentation. ‘I know you are saturated in Baltimore and that your money might be better spent nationally or even globally, but these guys worked hard at this. At least let them make a presentation to your guys. You and I won’t be there, we’ll just see what their initial feeling was.’ And his guys came back and said, ‘You’ve got to look at this DVD that they put together, and they’re giving it away for peanuts, so you ought to take a look at it.’”

(PLANK) “He was making enough on the back end from me, right? On the pool table. (laughter) So, it all worked out in a wash.”
(BISCIOTTI) “So, that was it. They made the presentation, Kevin saw the DVD and said to his guys, ‘I like it, go at it.’ We really didn’t get involved until it got down to the details. Kevin came down and saw me in Florida about a month ago, and we played 18 holes and then sat at my house for a couple of hours and talked about this thing. We both had some genuine concerns, and we said, ‘Let’s take these concerns back to them and let them work them out.’ And, they did, and it was pretty painless. Let’s face it, the NFL is a pretty staid brand, and tradition and everything else is kind of our calling card. Sometimes we protect it, I think, to the detriment of the NFL. So, the opportunity to get involved with a David in the Goliath game that he is playing against some of these big competitors of his intrigued me, because there is a parallel. He started in 1996, the Ravens started in ’96. I think something’s come out that says we are the 23rd most-popular brand out of 32 teams. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I’m glad we’re not 30th and 23 is making tracks. We’re the 23rd-largest TV market in the NFL. So I thought, after 15 years, that’s not a bad deal for us to have caught up with all the other teams. If you do a poll of 20,000 people and we come out 23, I think that we’ve caught up with them. The opportunity to learn from this juggernaut and push the envelope and know what it’s like to go try and beat competitors that are 10 times bigger than you intrigued me. I thought this is a big company and they’re doing great things. They’re going to get us out of our shell. They’re going to make us rethink some things and take some chances, and really, that’s how it got there.”

I’m intrigued by the name of the facility – the Under Armour Performance Center. Is it just that Under Armour is a performance company, or is there something a little deeper in the use of the word performance? (Stan Charles)
(PLANK) “We went through, and then when the deal started, and the deal got to a point where we said, ‘We’ve got a great deal.’ And then we said, ‘We’re going to do a naming rights deal.’ And then they said, ‘We’re going to call it the Under Armour Performance Center.’ And I was the first one that said, ‘OK, if we’re going to be your partner, and part of what we bring to the table is our ability to think about these things, maybe that’s the right name, but we’re going to go through an exercise and say, ‘Have we thought about everything else?’ And so what you’ll find in our relationship is that our job is to push. Our job is to try to say, ‘What are the things we can do at an advantage?’ So, we went everywhere from ‘The Ravens Nest’ to ‘The Bird House’ to ‘Protect This House’ to ‘Protect This,’ and where Steve, when he gives these looks of this (makes facial expression), and I knew I wasn’t getting warm, and he’s saying, ‘Colder, colder, colder.’ (laughter) But I said, this is a process, so we need to go through this. And he’s kind of going, ‘OK.’ And at the end of the day we ended up with the Under Armour Performance Center, which I think it speaks to the DNA of our brand across. The world’s greatest apparel, the world’s greatest footwear, the world’s greatest accessories, as we drive and do … Everything we touch, we want it to be the best. And so, when we talk about the things that we want to bring, the value add that we want to bring to the Ravens, we say that with A) We want to be disruptive and all of those kind of things that we always are. But we say that with the respect of, we’ve been partners with the National Football League since 2006. We just recently re-upped with this new deal that takes our Combine rights – which we’ve had for the last four years – out through 2017 as well. So, we are long, and we understand the way that the league works. And frankly, the league doesn’t need to take a lot of chances. But where we find ourselves is we’re constantly trying to break through the noise, and I think with a franchise with as storied of a history – particularly as storied of a recent history with the only team in the NFL going to the last four playoffs and winning in each one of those tries – is that we’re thinking, ‘What’s the DNA we can bring that can help us all break through?’ Because we see Under Armour in the same way; we feel like we’ve gotten to the big game, we’re there, but we’re still learning as a company, we’re still learning how to win that big game. So, when we think about the way that we’d like the company, is that to advantage ourselves by frankly, partnering and saying that we’re twice as strong with, we think, two very important – I think the Ravens being maybe the most important sports brand in our town – and the way that that adds to what we’re doing and building here. And [this is] not only locally, but nationally. And then of course, our goal, as we grow globally, is the kind of things that we want to bring back.”

What are some of the community initiatives that you want to focus on going forward? (Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) “Well, that’s a good question, because we actually – I think Kevin and I got here not really because of this facility – we really got there because we are out in this city doing things. Obviously, it’s football centric, it’s health centric, it’s children centric, and we’re constantly running into people that are making a pitch to us, and then making a pitch to Under Armour. And I don’t know that they make a pitch to Under Armour, and so they’re all competing with the same dollars, and Kevin and I are on their short lists, and so there’s not a deal that goes out there where they’re requesting money for any kind of children’s programs, whether it be just health and fitness, or football 7-on-7’s, kids camps, things like that. I can supply the coaches and the players to deal with 1,000 kids, and the next thing I know they show up and they’d be in Under Armour T-Shirts that Kevin donated. So, this was a no-brainer. This was an opportunity for us. We did Mervo’s field, we did another one, ‘Poly’ [Baltimore Polytechnic Institute], and we got the recognition and we like it. We like them knowing that we’re willing to invest in these cities and take some of these atrocious football fields and put lights in and new stands in and synthetic turfs. So, we’re playing the same game. We really feel like one plus one can equal three if we do this right, and we can have them make presentations to us. And if I drove by Mervo and it said, ‘Built by Ravens and Under Armour,’ I’d be just as proud. I don’t need the exclusivity. Whether we end up collectively turning our investment into more money … That’s kind of probably going to happen because of the synergy and the deals that are going to be brought our way. But even if it’s the same, I think it streamlines the efforts of all the people that put in that time for us in both of our organizations, collaborate on some things. And there are going to be projects that [Kevin] says pass and things that I say pass on, and so we can do plenty of things individually. But, I think brining two brands together that all Baltimoreans are proud of, to get out there and maybe bring a little bit more to the table, I think it will be fun to do.”

Steve, while I’ve got you here, can I get your thoughts on this year’s draft class? (Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) “Oh, I don’t know. My coaches are happy with the guys. This time of year, it’s basically install, and I heard [defensive coordinator] Dean Pees talk the other day and he said, ‘It’s pretty hard to see their true athleticism when they’re thinking, and our goal is to get them through these OTAs [to] where they’re not thinking, because then you can’t really see what they’re capable of doing until it comes second-nature.’ I think from a character standpoint, I think we did really well. I think we got the kind of guys that will fit right in with our Ravens.”

You’ve gotten this deal done now, how about the deals for Ray Rice and Joe Flacco? Do you have any news on them? (Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) “[Plank] is going to pay for Rice, I’m going to pay for Flacco. (laughter) He doesn’t know that yet.” (laughter)

(PLANK) “Is that in the fine print?” (laughter)

(BISCIOTTI) “You were busy. You didn’t read that whole thing.” (laughter)

Hey Kevin, you’ve got a pretty good football background. You ever pick the phone up and call Steve to say, “Hey, we might need to tweak this on offense a little bit or we might need to do…?” (Keith Mills)
(BISCIOTTI) “No, I gave him [John] Harbaugh’s number. I told him just go directly to the source.”

(PLANK) “Oh, I didn’t need this deal for that. I’ve been driving him crazy for years on that. Talk about having an opinion.” (laughter)

You guys mentioned when you sat down that you have a story to tell. To the average fan, what is that story you want to tell? (Keith Mills)
(PLANK) “Let me take a crack at that. We’ve done a lot of soul-searching in Under Armour since we moved the company hear from D.C. back in 1998 – it, myself and one other guy that moved here. We are from Baltimore, we are of Baltimore, we are a Baltimore company. This is our home, this is our house. So, the way that we think about it is we went through a process in our company. As we’ve grown, as we’ve created and reached some scale, we spent a lot of time putting in place, I think, organizations that are important to us from a give-back standpoint. And we spent a lot of time, I think, finding out what are the things that are right for us. There have been some very, very worthy organizations – things like the Wounded Warrior Project, things like Power In Pink and a lot of these national things. These are all very good, worthy causes, and we’ll still continue to be involved in certain ways, but we looked and said, ‘How do we want to spend our money?’ As we’re growing, our latest outlook as a company has us crossing $1.8 billion. So, those funds that we are able to give back, they continue to grow as well. As you’re sending money down to Texas and you’re sending money to New York and you’re sending things to other places, we are thinking, ‘With all the need that we have here in our own city, what are we doing for our city?’

“So, just a few weeks ago, we had something called Armour Day. We wanted to unveil this to our own team first. Armour Day, where we put 3,000 of our 5,000-plus at Pier Six pavilion, and people took the boats over, and we brought everybody from our distribution houses and our retail stores and we brought everybody together, and we talked about this new commitment that we have to something we’ve coined the term ‘WIN Baltimore.’ I think that’s very appropriate for the relationship that we have, because it’s the same opinion that the Ravens have, too. We said, ‘We could spend money in lots of other places, but what if we just started here? What are we doing to make our city great? What are we doing to really dig in? And, more importantly, to remind our people?’ Selfishly speaking, as a corporate citizen here, I spend all my time recruiting people, trying to get them to come to Baltimore that we are recruiting from other organizations that can bring skills and expertise to our company – from Carlsbad, California and Portland, Oregon and New York, New York and saying, ‘Come and move to Baltimore.’ So, what we want when they come here is we want them to come to a great city. We want them to come to a city that they are impressed with. So, if you came and you visited the Under Armor campus just three, four years ago, you would have found chain-linked fence and barbed wire on top of it and a freight train that runs through the middle of our campus that separates two buildings. So, we’ve taken down the chain-linked fence, we’ve taken down the barbed wire, we’ve put new fence up, we’ve put plantings in. We can’t do a darn thing about the freight train that runs through the middle of it, (laughter) but we like that, actually, because that’s so real and that’s so much our city. So, when people come here and they know that when an e-mail comes across that says, ‘That train is coming,’ and you’ve got a meeting in the other building, you better step and run to the other building. (laughter) When we think about what’s Baltimore, let’s build what is real. Let’s understand what the great assets are that we have in our city, the things that inspire us and excite us. That’s part of the vision. We are not going to solve all the problems. What we’re putting in place, hopefully, with this partnership and why we’re excited about it being a long-term, 10-year deal for the two of us is that this is just a step. Even the things in the contract, 90 percent of them aren’t even in there yet. More importantly, they wouldn’t even have to be written down because they should just be an understanding. So, whether it is us getting behind Mervo, whether it’s what we’re doing at Dunbar [High School] or other things, it should just be this collaboration that gets other people to say, ‘That’s from us.’ The thing that draws people to Under Armour, there are salaries, there are paychecks, there is all those kind of things, but mostly, it inspires you to look in the paper and see that what I am doing is making a difference. Look at that athlete wearing our brand. I want people of Baltimore to see that when they watch it on television of the places. So, the ability for us to collide these two important Baltimore brands that are, hopefully, going in one direction, which is up, that we can help each other, and importantly, help our community, help our city, first and foremost. But we think that we are much stronger together than we are apart. So, why not? Let’s get together and let’s build and do something great and let’s keep dreaming.”

(BISCIOTTI) “I will say that what inspires me about Kevin is that my brand is local and there is no reason for me to go outside the locale. Everything I do to promote the Ravens benefits me, and there is a point of diminishing effectiveness with Kevin pumping more money into Baltimore. Enough is enough at a certain point, and I have been very impressed with him willing to dip back into the local scene. Sure, he benefits a little bit because we are a national brand, but as far as … He and I were sitting there a couple of years ago, and he said, ‘I need more investment into Baltimore like I need a hole in the head. I’ve got a national, global brand, and I need to make sure my money works for our company to the best of our ability.’ And for him to kind of come to that after two years, and let’s face it, every two years he doubles … I think he was a billion dollars, and he is $1.8 now. For him to go back and reassess that and for every great global story, there is a beginning, and for him to say, ‘You know what? Maybe there is more money in our budget to push the Baltimore thing a little bit more.’ It is really a tribute to him and the kind of culture that he is trying to build. So, that’s my pride in being associated with him is that he might stay, ‘Stop,’ and then he turns around six months later and he is never set on his own decision. It might be right now, but six months later, he is willing to open up the folder and look at it from a different perspective. So, it is important for us.

“Baltimore doesn’t have a lot of success stories, and so we are both very proud of being able to do this. I don’t think I would have bought an NFL team in any other city, because it would have lost some of the luster of what I was trying to get. To get my hometown team was the deciding factor for me getting involved in this. For Kevin to continually loop back around and say, ‘There is probably more that I can do for the city of Baltimore,’ is just a great window into his soul and what really matters to him. When we were doing a press release, [Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin Byrne, God bless his soul, was bringing up the history of Kevin [Plank] starting in his basement and me starting in my basement. And I said, ‘You know what? I don’t need stories about me at 23. I am 52 years old. I have matured. I have a mature brand here. I am not doing a deal with Allegis Group and Under Armour. I am doing it with the Ravens, and we’re both 1996 [inceptions] in this town. You can’t find better synergy than what we have. He had plenty of other alternatives, and my alternatives were none, and he knew that because when I talked to him about this deal, I said, ‘There is no stalking horse. There is nobody else I am going to do this deal with. Either you guys are interested or it will stay the Ravens’ training center forever. If you are not interested, that is the way it will be.’ He was flattered. He understood why his brand would be something that we would be proud of, because we didn’t do it for the money. I love being associated with this brand, and I think all of our employees are going to love being associated with each other, which we already are in so many countless ways throughout the city.”

(PLANK) “You never talk that nice to me.” (laughter)

(BISCIOTTI) “I don’t. But it’s on record now, so you can always show it to me when I am being mean to you.”

(PLANK) “That is a great statement for the two of us. Steve brings up a good point, and I want people to understand that being a growth company, we are constantly measuring and evaluating how much ammo we have – how much do we have to fight the good fight, and how are we allocating the resources, because we only have so many of them. So, the decision to come back here was really an easy one. What I want to say is that this is not a financially-driven deal. It’s not to say the Ravens handed it to us, but Steve was very clear on the outset that this wasn’t a deal for anybody else and that it was sort of a one-shot negotiation. If it worked, great. We sort of found this balance where it made sense. We’re extremely appreciative to the Ravens. We have a long-standing relationship from having suites there and the Protect This House prompt that we have at the games. What we want to bring to this deal is that we’re underdogs. We want to bring that fight and that thought with the respect and understanding of what the parameters are and what the rules are at the league level of the Ravens being a part of 31 other clubs as well. But, we think that there are ways that we can use some of the things that we are excellent at to help advantage. Everything that we want to do, we want to bring the latest, we want to bring the most innovative, and we want to bring something that is unique and different. That begins with the innovation that we bring to the individual athletes that we have signed on the Ravens, starting with Ray Lewis, and what we can do to help Ray be the fastest and strongest out there with the latest cleats and the latest gloves and the pieces that we are official with the NFL and the other members of the Ravens that we will have out there, too. There is no stone that will go unturned. The same attention to detail that was applied to, let’s at least go through the process as the naming rights, is the same attention to detail we will put to everything from what our backdrop looks like and are we sure that that is OK. I tell you, we’ll have a team that will sit there and stare at that backdrop for hours on end and make sure it’s the most innovative, creative, unbelievable backdrop you have ever seen in your life.”

(BISCIOTTI) “So, if you see flashing lights behind us six months from now, you’ll know it wasn’t my idea.” (laughter)

Is there going to be a sign in the indoor facility as well? (Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) “The indoor, absolutely. I would love him to come out here with his tech team and test things out. I think you have 20 Ravens signed right now on our team. Like he said, his place is downtown Baltimore. We are driving on my boat up into the city one day, and I said, ‘When are you going to get Tide Point off there and put Under Armour on?’ He said, ‘Well, we’re negotiating.’ I said, ‘That’s ridiculous. You are one of the coolest brands in the world.’ I am driving by and I am seeing Tide Point, and then I see a little Under Armour logo over there. I was like, ‘Buy the damn building and put your own name up.’ He was looking at it from the water because I am seeing it from the water all the time and he is not. And he starts biting his lip, and the next thing I know, he is like, ‘Alright, we are going to do it. We are going to get this Under Armour thing on the waterfront.’”

(PLANK) “Did you just take credit for us buying our facility?” (laughter)

(BISCIOTTI) “Not buying it, but I remember, it was Tide Point wasn’t it? Is that gone yet?”

(PLANK) “Yes, it is. It says Under Armour.”

(BISCIOTTI) “I know I didn’t do it. All I did was just get you mad that somebody else’s name was on your building. I knew you would take it from there. But, when it comes down to performance, we are looking for the performance. We are looking to perform better than our competitors, and he is looking to build products to make that happen. Why shouldn’t he have a facility? That’s where I think it’s kind of neat is that he has a facility. He doesn’t have an indoor training facility. He doesn’t have three football fields. He doesn’t have a room like this to engage people in. I want him to bring his products out here. I think what he did at the Combine two years ago with those shirts with the dial in it that tested heart rates and all those things, I thought it was the coolest thing that I had ever seen. So, as they create these new technologies and these new advancements in their field of performance gear, I want them testing out the people that perform the best in Baltimore, and that’s my athletes. He’s got carte blanche now. He’s got a place that he can come, and they can test and they can trial and error everything they do and perfect it. I am going to be proud to know that their six trips out here through that testing developed a product that can go globally. As long as I get my little swag bag, I will be happy with it.” (laughter)

Speaking of deals, one of the decisions the Ravens made was to not go after OLB Terrell Suggs’ money due to getting hurt. Players can get hurt doing a variety of things. Just your thinking on that decision, and do you guys care however the injury occurred? (Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) “No, no. I would be more upset if he hurt himself sleeping on his couch all offseason. To me, if your players are engaged in activities that get them in shape, then I’m proud of them for doing it. I don’t know if I would be working out in April. The way these guys do what they do … I’m proud of Terrell. He got criticized for being out of shape a couple years ago, and he said it would never happen again. He made the Pro Bowl last year, and then he made Defensive Player of the Year this year. Maybe it’s Haloti’s [Ngata] time this year. Terrell is the third player that Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric [DeCosta] have drafted that have won Defensive Player of the Year, and we think we’ve got one in Haloti on the rise, and we may have another one in Jimmy Smith or Lardarius Webb. I want these guys striving. It gets pretty boring in the weight room, so if they want to go out there … You know, he wasn’t kite boarding – I'd like to see that someday, Terrell trying to kite board – but if he’s playing basketball, that’s great.”

And just from a business decision, do you think it would send the wrong message in the locker room for a guy not to get paid because he got hurt? (Aaron Wilson)
(BISCIOTTI) “I think it’d send a really bad [message]. I’d be scared to come to work. I think it would be a terrible message.”

Steve, you’ve talked about your pride in the city, and one thing you’ve talked about the last few years is that desire for a Monday night home game. On the heels of this announcement, how excited and pleased are you to open up Week 1 at home on Monday night? (Luke Jones)
(BISCIOTTI) “How’d that work out? That was pretty good. They finally listened to me (laughter). I’m thrilled. I’m a little disappointed that we got three home games nationally televised and they’re in Week 1, 3 and 4, but that’s just a quirk of the schedule. We’ve got three home prime-time games, and with the flex schedule of NBC, we can earn more. So, we’re going to get ours out of the way. Obviously, it’s the hottest time of the year, so it might be good for our fans to not be in 90-degree heat. We’ll just take advantage of it. They called and apologized that they were all jammed in the beginning of the year. We’ll make the most of it, and hopefully, we’ll try and earn one or two more Sunday night games from NBC because of our success. I’m very happy about it, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic weekend for us to open up on Monday night.”

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