Story Behind Business Giants' New Deal


The Ravens and Under Armour are already independently strong.

Now imagine how good the Baltimore titans will be together.

The Ravens and Under Armour announced Friday that they're joining forces in a wide-ranging and groundbreaking 10-year agreement to not only help themselves become industry leaders, but uplift the Baltimore area.

The collaboration includes naming the Ravens' practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., the "Under Armour Performance Center," as well as multiple community-focused initiatives.

Under Armour will help the Ravens' players perform better using their apparel technology. While Nike is the official gameday apparel provider, Under Armour has carte blanche to test its products in the facility.

The Ravens are helping Under Armour bolster its brand at home, and in the NFL.

"We're twice as strong," said Under Armour CEO and Founder Kevin Plank.

"I think bringing 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," Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said.

There are several interesting parallels between the Ravens, Under Armour and their two Maryland-proud owners – so much so that Bisciotti called the partnership "a no-brainer."

The two friends, who talk about everything from business to Terrapin sports, have been talking about a partnership for years.

They finally hammered out the details of an enhanced agreement once Under Armour's previous* *deal with the Ravens, which was in place since 2001, was set to expire. The owners stressed that the agreement is not about money. It's about joining two friends and their companies to make improvements together.

"There is nobody else I am going to do this deal with," Bisciotti said. "I love being associated with this brand."

Their connection starts with their background.

Bisciotti grew up in Severna Park, Md., went to Salisbury University and still lives in the area. Plank grew up in Kensington, Md., played football at the University of Maryland and also has a home here.

The Ravens, owned by a man who started his company (now Allegis Group) with just he and his cousin, have been in Baltimore since 1996.

It's the same year Plank founded Under Armour in his grandmother's basement in Washington, D.C. when he was looking for an alternative to his sweat-soaked T-shirt. Two years later, Plank established the company's global headquarters in Locust Point, a waterfront neighborhood of Baltimore.

"We are from Baltimore, we are of Baltimore, we are a Baltimore company," Plank said. "This is our home, this is our house."

Their companies also have a similar mission.

Under Armour is challenging industry leaders, like Nike* *and Reebok, pushing its high-tech sports apparel into athletes and teams' hands.

Similarly, the small-market Ravens are competing with more historic teams, trying to break through to the Super Bowl after four straight playoff tries, including two AFC championship appearances.

"What's the DNA we can bring that can help us all break through?" Plank said. "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."

The two men also have similar goals to help their city.

The Ravens have been* *a positive force in the community, and have done acts such as funding new fields at Mervo and Dunbar High Schools. The Ravens also have scholarship programs, send players into the community every Tuesday during the season, and host numerous programs for youth.

Under Armour recently launched the program "WIN Baltimore," which is designed to spark positive social growth by supporting the social, educational and physical advancement of kids in the area.

Plank could have chosen to spend his money further advancing his brand abroad – Under Armour has offices in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Toronto and China – but he instead is choosing to invest more at home.

That's why part of the partnership will specifically focus on investing in the Baltimore community.

The deal includes 25 $1,000 grants for youth football programs. Under Armour will sponsor the John Harbaugh and Assistants Youth Football Camp on June 16 at McDaniel College, a season-long competition at halftime of home games, and the annual 7-on-7 High School Flag Football Tournament.

Plank indicated there will be more too.

"This is just a step," he said, saying 90 percent of their ideas aren't even in the contract 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 or other things, it should just be this collaboration that gets other people to say, 'That's from us.'

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