By Barry Janoff
March 1, 2016: In February, Under Armour unveiled the second stage of its "Rule Yourself" umbrella campaign, which included Memphis Depay of the English Premiere League's Manchester United.
Now, the sports gear and footwear company is kicking in with another soccer alliance, signing a deal to custom-design the official match ball for the North American Soccer League.
The match ball features the NASL's signature red and blue colors, as well as the league's and Under Armour logos.
NASL clubs will exclusively use the Under Armour ball, which replaces Voit, in all training sessions, matches and community activities. It will also be available for NASL fans to purchase on NASLShop.com.
Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed.
"Under Armour has quickly become a major player in the global soccer scene, and we believe that this partnership will benefit all who are involved in the game both here and abroad," Bill Peterson, NASL commissioner, said in a statement. "When our players and coaches got their feet on the Under Armour Desafio ball for the first time, the responses were great. It's a fantastic ball."
The league said it had been using the Under Armour ball during preseason training sessions. It will make its official debut on April 2 when the NASL begins its 2016 Spring Season.
New Era is the league's official cap partner. Players wear jerseys from adidas and Nike.
Late last year, Depay starred in what Under Armour called its first campaign dedicated to soccer, "Slay Your Next Giant."
In addition to Depay, the Baltimore-based company currently outfits such clubs as Tottenham Hotspur, FC St. Pauli, AZ Alkmaar, and São Paulo FC, as well as Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Lauren Holiday and Kelley O'Hara, members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team that won the FIFA Women's World Cup last summer.
According to Peter Murray, vp-sports marketing for Under Armour, "Under Armour is proud to support a professional organization such as the NASL as the league's official ball partner. Together, we will continue to help grow the sport of soccer in North America."
Under Armour's roster of endorsers also includes Stephen Curry, Cam Newton, Andy Murray, Lindsey Vohn, Buster Posey, Bryce Harper, recently signed Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and a line endorsed by Muhammad Ali.
The original NASL played from 1968-1984 with players that included soccer icons Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgio Chinaglia, Johann Cryuff, George Best, Shep Messing, Rodney Marsh and Gerd Muller.
The rebooted NASL (with limited official ties to its predecessor, including its name and revived franchises such as the New York Cosmos, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and Tampa Bay Rowdies) kicked off in 2011.
Peterson called the upcoming campaign "our most exciting season yet. Our clubs have made unbelievable progress this offseason, and with some of the signings and announcements being made across the league, the talent on the field is going to be at an all-time high."
"Under Armour has quickly become a major player in the global soccer scene, and we believe that this partnership will benefit all who are involved."
Three new clubs begin NASL play in 2016: Miami FC, Puerto Rico FC and Rayo OKC. Two clubs will not participate in 2016: the Atlanta Silverbacks and San Antonio Scorpions.
"We're tremendously excited about our three new clubs, and we're impressed with what each of them has in the works for their inaugural season," Peterson said. "With those clubs joining an already strong group of existing clubs, we expect this year to be extremely competitive. The last three years have come down to the final Fall Season weekend, proving that every match really does matter in the NASL."
The NASL member teams are: Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Ft .Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada FC, Miami FC, Minnesota United FC, New York Cosmos, Ottawa Fury FC, Puerto Rico FC, Rayo OKC, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The league operates under a split-season competition, Spring and Fall, with a year-end championship featuring both the Spring Season Champion and Fall Season Champion, as well as the two other teams with the best combined records from the Spring and Fall Seasons.