Tom Brady asks Gen Z athletes to ditch toxic comparisons in Under Armour ads

    • Under Armour is encouraging young athletes to stop comparing themselves to established greats through a star-studded new ad campaign, per an announcement.   
    • In the hero spot, NFL quarterback Tom Brady asks Morgan Freeman to read a letter he penned to an up-and-comer being called “the next Tom Brady.” Brady’s note instructs the recipient to tune out the noise and compare themselves to “nobody but the kid in the mirror.”   
    • “Be The Athlete No One Saw Coming” spotlights Husan Longstreet, a rising star on the high school football scene, and will be promoted by athlete ambassadors Joel Embiid and Jordan Thompson. The apparel marketer is backing up the message through a grant program as it looks to win favor with young consumers.  

    Aspirational messaging and youth-oriented sports marketing go hand-in-hand. A famed Gatorade commercial from the ‘90s that features Michael Jordan playing basketball with kids told viewers to “Be Like Mike.” Under Armour is flipping the script on genre conventions with a new advertising push that tells Gen Z athletes to ditch those types of comparisons and instead keep their energy centered on self-improvement.  

    “Comparisons are no longer used for context, they’re now confused with competition,” the announcement reads. 

    The athletic apparel brand has strategically chosen Tom Brady as its spokesperson. The NFL quarterback holds more Super Bowl rings than anyone who’s ever played the position, but he was hardly a shoo-in for greatness, being drafted 199th overall into the league. With help from the sonorous voiceover of Freeman, Brady in the commercial writes to the next sports legends and recommends they cancel out the noise and think about who they could evolve into in the future. 

    The ad is set to air nationally on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” program for the Sept. 11 showdown between Brady’s team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Dallas Cowboys. The pro football icon also shared the message on social media, with an Instagram post generating over 200,000 likes at press time.  

    While expectations weigh on any high-performing athlete, Under Armour is trying to address modern ails that carry an acute impact on digitally native Gen Z. Under Armour points out that sports toxicity is no longer limited to sideline whispers, but now extends to social media and the online sphere.  

    “For young athletes today, there are more distractions coming up through the ranks than there were for me,” Brady said in a press statement. “I wasn’t a prodigy. I had to really work hard to put myself in a position to succeed.”

    “Be The Athlete No One Saw Coming” aims to bridge the generational divide by including Longstreet, a 15-year-old who’s already received dozens of college football offers. A grant program attached to the campaign will also award 10 young athletes aged 14-17 with $5,000, access to a performance experience at the Under Armour campus and gear for a year. Qualified applicants must submit a 150-word essay about their sports journey to a special website by Sept. 25. 


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