When Jordan Spieth, a 21-year-old from Dallas, dominated the Masters golf tournament this weekend, he won the Augusta National Golf Club’s fabled green jacket and a $1.8 million pot.
But he also struck gold for the company that had covered him head to toe with 16 of its logos: Under Armour, the sweat-wicking sportswear firm that its founder started in his grandmother’s Georgetown basement.
Spieth’s record-breaking Masters win has only bolstered Under Armour’s reputation for spotting and signing young talent — it also has a contract with ballerina Misty Copeland — that has helped turn it into one of the nation’s largest sportswear companies.
On Sunday, Spieth became the second-youngest player to win at Augusta, after Tiger Woods in 1997. He shot 18 under par to tie — guess who? — Tiger Woods for the lowest winning score in Masters history.
Spieth’s earnings over 60 Professional Golfers Association of America (PGA) Tour events have climbed to more than $14.2 million. But he has shared that star power with the Baltimore-based Under Armour, whose revenue soared past $3 billion last year, an all-time high that helped the company outpace Adidas and become the nation’s second-biggest sportswear seller, behind Nike. (The company’s stock jumped about 1 percent early Monday, but has climbed nearly 25 percent this year.)
“Thanks to Jordan, our company grew up today,” Under Armour founder and chief executive Kevin Plank told ESPN. “This is a global event and he’s the leading trending athlete in the world right now.”
In 2013, a year when Under Armour’s golf business approached $100 million in sales, the company signed a four-year endorsement deal with Spieth, then 19, before his first professional tournament. But the deal was largely overshadowed when Nike, on the same day, held its global announcement that it had signed star golfer Rory McIlroy.
In January, Under Armour doubled down and signed the young golfer to a new deal lasting through 2025.
That means Spieth will wear all Under Armour hats, clothes and shoes for the next decade — and that SportsCenter viewers, his fans and other golfers will be reminded of the company for years to come.
“We signed a 19-year old kid who we thought was a great fit for the Under Armour brand for one simple reason, he had the talent and drive to be a game changer,” Plank told analysts last April. “What we saw in that first year of our relationship with Jordan Spieth was an athlete with little fear and high confidence in his ability to compete with the world’s best golfers.”
Spieth’s connection to Under Armour is unavoidable. Spieth had 16 Under Armour logos on his hat, shirt, pants, belt and shoes on Sunday. On his way to the clubhouse, he hugged Ryan Kuehl, Under Armour’s senior director of golf.
His most recent picture on Instagram is a repost of a pair of Under Armour’s limited-edition Drive One golf shoes, which Spieth wore during this weekend’s play, and which went on sale last week for $180.
While other golf retailers have struggled as a result of equipment overstocking and the nation’s dwindling participation in golf, Under Armour executives have called golf apparel an “area of particular strength,” largely as golfers have switched from cotton polos to the company’s sweat-wicking synthetic compression shirts.
Because sponsors decide exactly what golfers wear at each stage of play, it’s simple for them to sell or promote that exact getup: In Under Armour’s online store, all four of Spieth’s $200-plus outfits are broken down into their components ($74.99 stripe polo, $79.99 straight-leg pants, $19.99 belt, $29.99 hat) for easy purchase.
Last year, Spieth made $12.3 million, half of which came from off-course deals with Under Armour, AT&T, Rolex, Titleist and other sponsors, according to Golf Digest. Including his Masters win, Spieth has won nearly $5 million this year.
But Under Armour and other sponsors say that considerable publicity has been worth the cash. In a conference call with analysts last April, after Spieth’s runner-up finish at the Masters, Plank said, “I’m sure that a lot of people watching the Masters a couple of weeks ago said to themselves, ‘Hey, look, Under Armour is making golf shirts now.'”
Spieth’s sponsorship story closely parallels that of Nike and Tiger Woods, and the company is surely hoping Spieth will post the same Woods effect and help its stuff fly off the shelves.
In 1996, Nike signed Woods, at 19, to a five-year contract worth $40 million. As his majors wins snowballed, Nike extended the deals with a five-year, $100 million contract in 2001 and longer contracts in 2006 and 2013.
Over the past two decades, Woods made Nike’s golf division into a powerhouse and, in doing so, became one of the highest-paid golfers in history.
Woods, now 39, has seen his play suffer in recent years and, this weekend, the golfer who won four green jackets at Augusta injured his wrist and tied for 17th. Woods has joked that Spieth was still in diapers when he won his first Masters in 1997, at age 21. (Spieth was actually 4, and was already playing golf.)
Spieth’s win could be great for the golf industry as a whole, which has suffered as young players stay away from the greens in droves. Some have said the sport needs a new Woods — a young, dynamic, fun-to-watch player who persuades others to pick up a club — and Spieth, alongside stars such as Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, could help give the sport some much-needed buzz.
Spieth’s babyfaced look, down-to-earth demeanor and clean-cut image — he volunteers at a special-needs school attended by his 14-year-old sister, who was born with a neurological disorder, and has told ESPN interviewers that it was an honor “to play these magical holes at the greatest stage in golf” — will certainly help his brand appeal.
“He was like apple pie with a golf club,” Plank, Under Armour’s chief executive, told ESPN. “There was nothing more Americana than Jordan Spieth this weekend.”