Rather than heap praise on the latest signature footwear bearing NBA MVP Stephen Curry's name, netizens widely criticized the "bland" white version of the Chef shoe as something more suited to taking out the garbage than playing basketball. Nicknames for the new shoes ranged from the "Early Bird Special 1s" to the "Kirkland Signatures" and "Nursing Home 2s."
On the surface, however, the negative attention was no laughing matter for Under Armour investors.
Recall that, in April, Under Armour marked its 24th consecutive quarter of achieving at least 20% year-over-year revenue growth. And though that growth was broad-based across Under Armour's various categories, the most impressive gains came from its footwear segment, where revenue climbed an incredible 64% from the equivalent year-ago period, to $264 million. Most pertinent to this discussion, Under Armour cited the Curry Two basketball shoe line -- the high-top version of which was the company's best-selling online item during the quarter -- as the primary driver of the footwear segment's success.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank went on to call Stephen Curry the "footwear MVP for Under Armour," stated his sponsorship was a "once-in-a-generation opportunity for our brand," and insisted Under Armour is "laser focused on delivering against that potential."
Let it suffice to say, then, that Under Armour shareholders are right to take seriously any missteps within Under Armour's evolving lineup of Curry Two shoes.
But despite the initial criticism, there are a number of reasons to believe the launch of Under Armour's Curry Two Low has actually been a success so far.
For one, the "bland" white version is only one of six variations of the Curry Two Low. And a quick glance at its product page on Under Armour's website shows many of the other color schemes are already sold out in all but the most common sizes.
What's more, in keeping with a "no press is bad press" theme, this negative attention has given Under Armour an enviable chance to highlight their already wildly popular Curry Two shoes. Canaccord Genuity analyst Camilo Lyon echoed this sentiment in a note to investors Friday, stating, "In our channel checks and discussions with industry contacts, the Chef shoe has actually sold better than some of its predecessor color [styles], likely due to all the attention paid to it."
It also helped that, when asked about the initial backlash to the Curry Two Low Chef, Stephen Curry kept his sense of humor intact by insisting: "If I had them in the road bag, I would have definitely worn them and showed you how fire they are. I love the nicknames they came up with, but I like them."
In an interview later, Curry wore the same white version of the shoe customized with a fire emoji, which was highlighted on the Golden State Warriors' Twitter feed:
Steph bringing the straight 🔥. pic.twitter.com/VEtZ3hVarn— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) June 12, 2016
Then earlier this week, Masters champion (and fellow Under Armour athlete) Jordan Spieth added fuel to that fire by giving Curry's new kicks a nod:
In the end, between the Curry Two Low Chef's more exciting color schemes, the generous press coverage, and words of support from Under Armour's influential athletes, it seems Under Armour has been able to brilliantly swing the momentum of this criticism in its favor. As a result, when Under Armour reports second-quarter 2016 results next month, I suspect we'll see its footwear segment is as strong as ever.