Beware the underdog. Beware the unknown quantity. Beware Under Armour Women.

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Under Armour’s latest “Protect This House. I Will” campaign, just released its second installment directed to all the single ladies out there. Well, not so much the single folk, but actually the empowered female athlete. I got the chance to have a quick chat with bossman Andre Stringer about the campaign and why athleticism and determination is not a battle of the sexes. Make the jump for the interview.


Sheina: Hey Andre!

Andre: How’s it going Sheina?

Sheina: Oh you know, just sitting in your office talking to you on speaker phone. It seems a bit backwards… But uh, how’s the west coast?

Andre: Same ‘ol. Just working.

Sheina: Well, I know you just finished up a shoot with the David Beckham, and it seems like lately, you’re doing a lot of work with athletes. How do you think that came about?

Andre: I’ve always had a special affinity for athletes from square one I think. My mom is a professor of physical education, and it was one of those things that was a part of my life. As a kid, I played a lot of sports—basketball and soccer, into my teen years I skated, and later I got into biking. I’ve always had that athlete mentality. Doing it in film has always been exciting for me, and it started with the days when I was on the street filming kids skating. That overtime evolved into what we are doing now.

Sheina: So, is this something you think clients have taken notice?

Andre: For me, it comes down to an authenticity thing.  I feel like, people, as a whole like things that are authentic. I never really believed in the basic precept of acting—I always drew on a documentary approach. Because of this fact, I really put authenticity as my highest priority in my film projects.  I think people who connect with that will get into the work that we are making.

Sheina: Right. It’s all about keeping it real!

Andre: Yeah, when we’ve gone out to make things, especially in the world of sports, it’s really about taking the time to find something real in the subject matter. In the case with Under Armour, this is easy.  The brand really believes in the raw, core athlete. Kevin Plank, Steve Battista, Marcus Stephens and Brian Boring all at Under Armour, live by the rule of authenticity. They create products for that audience and that’s something our team really believes in. From historical research, to speaking with the athletes and authorities to going out to see these athletes train, we were trying our best to connect, in a real way to their individual story. We tried to find something beautiful or intense or whatever, and then create situations to shoot that are real.  Try to capture it in the coolest way we can think of.  But at the end of the day, it was much less a fabrication and much more a documentation.

Sheina: How different is it working with an athlete versus an acteur?

Andre: I think everybody at root has an athlete in them, some more than others. Even when your working with actors you really wanna find the person who is an athlete, someone who understands that it’s a lot deeper than just moving.  There has to be an authentic passion there. No matter what, you want to find the realness and that’s a challenge. You want to find the real. People aren’t interested in what’s not.

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Sheina: And your speaking to an audience who understand that difference and who are themselves athletes.

Andre: That’s the rad thing about all the women we shot for this part of the campaign, but it’s really common in all the Under Armour athletes—every person has focused their entire career on bettering themselves and performing at that elite level. You get the opportunity to see how these high performers work, train and develop everyday. From Monica Hargrove to Lauren Cheney and Lindsey Vonn, they each have a unique perspective to moving and being the best at what they do. How they get there is so unique and amazing, which makes this work really exciting.

Sheina: So, we’re here to talk “Protect This House” Women. What does “Protect This House” mean?

Andre: Its such an interesting slogan or call to action, because it has a universality to it. On face value, it’s almost defensive, but it’s really much more than that. For us it became a metaphor for each of these athletes and what they had to protect and develop as their lives and career’s  played out. It became an introspective thing. A lot of the exciting shots in film are high action movement oriented and it’s really fun, but in the long form work, we really were looking for some depth—a story. But at the end of the day, just going out there and getting in the middle of the action was great. Live the lives of these athletes for a short time, and create work that is both a reflection of them and us.

Sheina: What about that last statement delivered by the athletes? “I Will.”

Andre: Well, the guys at UA developed the “Protect This House” slogan a while ago.  It’s gone through some permutations since then. This year, Under Armour wanted to bring it back and they wanted to make a broader conceptual statement.  Reinvigorate it. It had built up a lot of momentum since it’s original release—like the adoption of the slogan from collegiate teams, to chanting in stadiums, and game hype-ups.  It got a little too far away from UA.  We needed to get it re-attached to the brand again.  We turned it into something more emotive emphasized the refrain “I Will.”  It became the new mantra—an affirmation of the work of all these athletes put in. A reflection of the athlete’s ability to test their will and their faith. This sentiment became the cornerstone of our story.

Sheina: How and why did you concept for this project?

Andre: I’ve always believed that every brand has a story—everything is rooted in a story. Under Armour’s story is told through the individual stories of all these athletes. We saw a relationship between these athletes and the brand itself.  That really struck a cord with me.  This is a brand that is on the up and up—it’s the underdog in the market. The underdog is a mentality not a position. Even if you achieve, you grow, and win, the underdog always is looking for what is next. Whether it was Lindsey Vonn, Kevin Plank, Michael Phelps or Brandon Jennings, they all share a core mentality. The underdog is definitely a mentality, not a position.  I love that fighting spirit.

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Sheina: After doing PTH Mens, what were your thoughts about doing a PTH version for women?

Andre: We saw the campaign always as a singular concept. We knew we were going to deal with a really diverse group of people and we also knew we need to speak to a diverse group of people. We wanted to create a concept that would transcend gender. Something that spoke more to a mentality than a demographic. We were going after an authentic portrayal of an athlete and what they have to overcome in their journey of their careers. For women, it was the same as for men. The only thing that changed really was the setting and the sport. Our approach was the same—get out there and show our athletes that were not making a film, were just showing people the way they actually do things. Once we got that point across, they knew that they had to be out there all day working and we’d put a camera in front of them. Then it was just about getting down to business. This is definitely different from a regular commercial shoot, you normally have a lot of setting up, prep and acting. For these Protect This House spots, whether it was the men or women, authenticity was key. If I was ever trying to push the athletes into a scenario that didn’t seem real to them, they would tell me, and that would produce some interesting results.

Sheina: You have these great athlete long-forms. Do each of these correspond to a true personal struggle for Lauren, Lindsey, Monica? What did research entail?

Andre: We asked a lot of questions, talked to them directly and learned a lot about what they went through.  To some extent, we, the authors, became part of the subject and we put a little of our own interpretation into it. The athlete’s stories and their voices translated into our minds and imaginations. It became a collaborative experience—in terms of how the execution reflects the subject matter. I thought it was pretty true to their experience, but it also has the level of interpretation that I think that is inherent, in sitting down and writing. With Lauren, one of the things that she was keen on for training was that hers was a team oriented sport. At the same time however, her idea of meditation was to conquer her own demons, and she did that by kicking a ball into the net over and over and over again on an empty field. So, we tried to capture that inner struggle as well as the dynamic struggle of her and the team.

Sheina: You worked with Lindsey Vonn prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, since then did you notice any characteristic difference with the newly titled gold olympian?

Andre: Since then, I’ve noticed no difference. Lindsey is a mature athlete. She’s had her time to look at what’s important to her. The time before and after the Olympics didn’t affect her. She is still just as intense and focused on her training and sport. At that level, I think you really have to keep your head down and work through it. She just keeps rocking and she works hard. When she comes into the shoot she knows we’re there to capture whats real. She wrecks shop.

Sheina: So, is all that sweating in the film real? Is this real perspiration or fancy magic by makeup?

Andre: Noooo… the stuff is all real sweat, you cant fake that! There is a flushness in the face that you CAN NOT fake. No matter how much you wanna try to do it in commercials, it’s gotta be real. People have to work hard!

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Sheina: What kind of training and work out did you have them do?

Andre: They all are very different and each athlete trains in a very specific way.  It’s specific to the sport, but they all also train in a very multidisciplinary way. Your body gets accustomed to one style of training and you have to adjust and do things out of the norm to grow. What you see in the film reflects that. For Lindsey, her focus is on her legs. She’s gonna be out there pushing sleds, doing squats, and focusing on balance oriented work. Agility oriented as well, like explosive jumps that are almost slalom-esque. I think we got a good glimpse on what she’s doing with her progressive training style. With Lauren and the gang, they are really focused on endurance. They do a lot of running, wind sprinting and work with the ball on field. The interesting stuff though was the dumbbell snatches. You see these women throwing weight like anybody else would and throwing it with no prejudice. I think that’s really rad and that’s what we wanted to make sure came to light in getting out and shooting the women. Even Lindsey, she was doing those weighted squats. And with Monica, she’s so mean and lean. Her whole approach is to go fast and be strong. I mean, you can see every muscle that ripples through her body. It’s inspiring and pretty cool.

Sheina: What do you think differentiates a male athlete and a female athlete?

Andre: Well for Lauren, the team component is a very strong part of training. They all do whatever they need to excel, but at the same time they have a level of intimacy within the team that I don’t think happens a lot in men’s teams.  I think this makes the female athlete dynamic and inspiring. We wanted to show how much they do together and it’s place in the sport. Honestly though, we were shooting such high-level athletes that were all so diverse, like Georges Saint Pierre to Michael Phelps, to Monica, that it was hard to tell the difference based on the gender. They are so unique. At that level, every individual is so unique, whether it’s a man or woman. The reason that these people excel at that level is because they pushed their physical boundaries.  In my opinion, there’s no difference between the sexes, there is only a difference between people.

Sheina: If you had to arm-wrestle one of these ladies, who would be the toughest competition?

Andre: They all could beat me. I’m just a dude who sits behind the computer and camera. I don’t know.  Lindsey is no joke. The same with Lauren. I mean they’re all pretty gnarly.  I wouldn’t mess with any of them. But maybe Big-E (Under Armour’s brand ambassador) can be my arm-wrestle stand-in, he might stand a better chance.

Sheina: I know you mentioned earlier that you weren’t trying to speak to a specific gender, but if there was a message for the female audience, what would you want them to understand?

Andre: The message here overall is really shedding light on all the work that it takes to progress and grow. In this case it’s sports, but it’s really the underlying theme of everything in life. There’s this challenge in your life— to overcome it, you have to work really hard. There is this integral, human element that is important to progressing. Every champion isn’t a super human being—they’ve had to work and endure through all the challenges to be where they are. Humanizing that experience is the core of our message. It’s inspiring that at that level of performance, for these athletes, that it can be and is accessible to everybody. You just have to work really hard to get there.

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