Sports: Under armour boost for athletes

Sports: Under armour boost for athletes
(From left) Rugby players Jay-Hykel, Blandon Tan, Jonathan Lee, Daniel Chow, rower Saiyidah Aisyah and UFC fighter Royston Wee at the opening of the Under Armour store at Orchard Gateway on 29 May 2014. They have been selected as the six brand ambassadors for the American sports apparel company, and will each receive a one-year sponsorship in apparel.

If someone had told national rower Saiyidah Aisyah a year ago that she would find her face on a promotional poster at a random bus stop, she would have rolled her eyes in disbelief.

That could soon become reality, after the 26-year-old Singaporean was selected as one of six brand ambassadors for Under Armour - an American sports apparel company.

The brand launched its first retail store in South-east Asia at Orchard Gateway yesterday.

Known for its kit sponsorship of Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, Under Armour has also roped in UFC fighter Royston Wee, national rugby captain Daniel Marc Chow and three other rugby players.

The athletes will receive a one-year sponsorship in apparel.

It is the first time that Aisyah, well known for her gold-medal exploits at the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, has been asked to represent a sporting brand and she hopes the deal will lead to opportunities for other local athletes as well.

"I hope this opens doors to other athletes here," she told The New Paper.

"We need the exposure and the support; it makes you feel like a real professional athlete."

Adrian Chai, chief marketing officer for Triple Pte Ltd - the exclusive distributor of Under Armour in the region - said that the criteria when selecting athletes as brand ambassadors is based on the character rather than the sport.

He said: "It's the character, determination and will to succeed which these athletes have.

"We know the story of Aisyah well, how she received no funding and yet won gold at the SEA Games.

"Royston is another good example of such perseverance, winning a UFC fight in front his home crowd (earlier this year).

"A lot of these guys don't get the exposure they need and deserve. So it's not just about football or promoting the No. 1 sport in Singapore - but promoting the guys who want to achieve things for their country."

Under Armour itself is not sport specific, added Chai.

The brand received its big boost in 2000, when it became the outfitter for many American football teams in the United States.

Since then, it has roped in Olympic legend and swim star Michael Phelps as one of its key ambassadors, and ventured into a variety of sports, from baseball to alpine ski racing.

The brand plans to promote the six athletes on a digital platform, for starters, and also open five stores in Singapore in the near future.

"This sort of sponsorship goes a long way for Singapore sport," said national rugby captain Chow.

"Many regional rugby teams like Thailand and Malaysia are moving forward in terms of playing full-time and professionally.

"If we want to stay on top - and I know Singapore does with the new Sports Hub opening up - then such support is crucial.

"This is kind of the first step. With more private sponsorship, hopefully, we can look towards making sports a viable career option."

This article was first published on May 30, 2014.
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