Ad of the Day: Under Armour Unleashes a Wild and Furious New Ad With Cam Newton

UA's Adrienne Lofton takes us through Droga5's latest epic

Under Armour had a huge hit with its Michael Phelps "Rule Yourself" spot, which broke in March and helped drive the sportswear brand through the Olympics last month.

Now, UA tells Adweek that it's taking a similar approach with Cam Newton in a wild new commercial from Droga5 that metaphorically addresses the NFL star's obstacle-filled path to greatness—and features some pretty unlikely source material, as well as an interesting family addition to the creative.

The spot, "Prince With 1,000 Enemies," breaks this morning and shows the Carolina Panthers quarterback—last season's league MVP and Super Bowl runner-up—standing alone in a misty field in the twilight. All of a sudden, he takes off at a sprint into a forest, where he rushes past—and eventually through—the trees in a fury of speed and footwork.

All the while, a female voiceover—who turns out to be Cam's mother, Jackie Newton—narrates a section of Watership Down, the 1972 novel by Richard Adams about a group of rabbits on the run, who are looking to make a new home but keep running into danger and obstacles along the way.

Check out the spot here:

The parallels to the Phelps spot are subtle but undeniable—the dark cinematography, the surreal touches, the overarching story of a star athlete working without rest behind the scenes to make amends (for London in Phelps' case, for the Super Bowl loss in Santa Clara, Calif., in Newton's).

It's an inspiring lead-in to the NFL season, and for Under Armour, a key piece of creative in its current focus on footwear—the market where it sees its future growth. As Newton flies through the woods, we get many glimpses of his UA shoes, and the focus is purely on his movement. He doesn't throw a single pass—indeed, he doesn't even have a ball.

The theme is "It comes from below," which UA has used in a few spots now, including this one earlier in the summer with Bryce Harper.

On Tuesday, Adweek spoke with UA's senior vice president of global brand management, all about the new campaign, the creative and business goals around it, and why Cam was almost given a creative director title on the new spot.

Adweek: Watership Down is an interesting choice for source material. How did that come about?

Adrienne Lofton: It was an interesting selection. When we first started talking to Cam about this new campaign, back in March, he was frustrated. He didn't take home the championship trophy, and he was frustrated. He wanted to prove, to himself and to his team, that this is just the beginning, and the best is yet to come. He thought about the challenges, and what he had to persevere through this past season, and how he behaved after the Super Bowl loss on the media podium, and the things he wanted to use as fuel to get him ready for the first game of the season, which is coming up on Thursday. … With Cam, it's about head down, break through the barriers and continue to drive his team to the championship. When we thought about the challenges—the naysayers, the doubters, everything that exists in the world of celebrity—this book, Watership Down, came to mind.

Our two creative leads at Droga—Alex [Nowak] and Felix [Richter], who are awesome—they came up with this idea. We talked about it together. I grew up in Texas, and it was a mandatory book we had to read as kids. So, everybody related differently to this book when they pitched the idea. But it was all about these rabbits breaking out from their tribe in order to bring their crew to safety. They experienced all of these temptations and perils along the way, but kept their heads down until they got to a place of safety. It's this dramatic book, and we kept thinking of the parallels, how Cam keeps his head down no matter what anybody has to say. He is focused on taking his team to victory, and he is so prepared to work his butt off to get there. It's awe-inspiring.

We wanted to tell this story around footwork, and footwear, as you see in the spot, but we wanted to tell it differently. We took him off the field, we took the ball out of his hands, and we created this metaphorical environment that is about crushing through your challenges. Those trees represent barriers he's broken through every step of the way through his career. As we were building this concept, it was really reminiscent of the Michael Phelps work, and how we ideated against that idea. We were always keeping footwork in the back of our minds as the essential story, but making sure we did it through the eyes and the lens of Cam Newton.

How did Jackie Newton get involved, and what does she add to the spot?