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As they have for years, Archbishop Curley High School’s football players wore Nike made jerseys last season, the swoosh clearly visible below their left shoulders.

But for the first practice of this season last week, coach Sean Murphy donned a black T shirt with the white interlocking Under Armour logo front and center above “Curley Friars.” His matching ball cap also featured the “UA” symbol.

The Catholic boys’ school is joining hundreds of high schools nationwide whose teams are outfitted by Under Armour. cheap jerseys The Baltimore based sports apparel and footwear company is intent on getting area schools into the fold protecting its local “house” and building brand loyalty among the region’s youths.

“First and foremost, we want to outfit the teams in our hometown of Baltimore,” said Ryan Kuehl, the company’s vice president of sports marketing. “Owning our backyard is frankly a top line priority.”

Under Armour donated Banner Field in Locust Point is completed Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

Field will host home games of Digital Harbor High School football team

Field will host home games of Digital Harbor High School football team (Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun)

Nationally, Nike far outpaces Under Armour in combined apparel and footwear sales. Under Armour topped $3 billion in revenue for the first time last year a little more than one tenth of archrival Nike’s figure. But Under Armour surpassed Adidas last year to become the second biggest sports brand in the United States, and founder Kevin Plank’s long stated goal is to some day surpass Nike.

Nike isn’t ignoring Under Armour’s threat. Just last week, Nike announced a new showcase high school basketball event in the Bahamas that coincides with the established Under Armour Elite 24 All American Game in New York City later this month.

Neither Under Armour nor Nike responded to questions last week about the suddenly competing events.

Winning over the youth market is seen as key to each company’s future.

“For an athletic apparel brand, building a high performance brand image and loyalty throughout consumers’ life span is critical,” said Dae Hee Kwak, a University of Michigan assistant professor of sports management. He said Under Armour and Nike want “to build that relationship early so that consumers are locked in with either [the] swoosh or the UA logo.”

Under Armour’s high school strategy is broadly aimed at growing the brand from the bottom up and generating familiarity and even loyalty among athletes.

At the high school level, Under Armour uses Baltimore as an incubator, signing schools and often asking their athletes to test cleats, gloves, socks and other gear, and to provide feedback.

Like a presidential campaign ensuring that it avoids the embarrassment of losing its home state, Under Armour partnered with 25 more Maryland schools in 2015. Among the Baltimore area teams wearing the company’s logo are the Gilman School, Calvert Hall College High School, and Dunbar and River Hill high schools. In the Washington area, it counts Good Counsel, Friendship Collegiate Academy and St. John’s College High School, which Plank attended.

Under Armour would not say precisely how many high schools it outfits nationally.

“We currently have hundreds of high schools on our roster,” Kuehl said. “Our brand awareness is much greater on the East Coast, given our corporate headquarters location in Baltimore, but our brand is growing rapidly across the globe and our business categories at every level are following suit.”

The school district in Lubbock, Texas, signed with Under Armour in 2010 after high school athletes there became enamored of Under Armour, partly because they noticed the company’s uniform designs for Texas Tech, their hometown university, said Mark Ball, the district’s executive director of athletics.

“This is just me, but I think five years ago Nike was dominant. I think Under Armour and Adidas are cutting into that. It’s very similar to a district doing a drink deal with Coca Cola or Dr Pepper,” Ball said. “They think if they can get the kids using that product and they like it, they’re going to continue to use that product for the rest of their lives.”

Lubbock’s Under Armour deal encompasses four high schools and nine junior high schools. Elsewhere, individual schools often go their own way. In addition to Nike and Under Armour, Russell Athletic and other manufacturers also compete for high school uniform business.

“The local schools have their budgets and there are different ways that each school goes about it,” said Andy Warner, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

While Under Armour’s college endorsement deals typically span 10 years, its high school contracts are shorter three or five years, the company said.

In many high school contracts, schools receive deep discounts perhaps 40 percent on Under Armour equipment. http://www.cheapnfljerseysonlinem.top Depending on the type of sponsorship, the school also may receive a specified amount of free gear based on the amount it purchases in a year.

Such relationships can means thousands of dollars a season for schools. At Archbishop Curley, Murphy estimated that game day football uniforms could cost as much as $12,000 for the team. That doesn’t include practice jerseys, which the school supplies, or cleats, which the players buy from a specified vendor.

College endorsement deals are far more lucrative. The 10 year contract signed by Under Armour with the University of Maryland last year guarantees nearly $33 million in rights fees and athletic apparel to the school, according to a copy of the document obtained under a public records request.

At the college level, such companies as Under Armour, Nike and Adidas reap the benefit of teams’ national television appearances showcasing their products.

If college sponsorship is an investment in the marketing present, high school sponsorships are an investment in the future, building loyalty in young athletes who may become the next Michael Jordan or Stephen Curry.

That gold rush is behind Under Armour’s and Nike’s sponsorship of special events for high school all stars. Those showcases demonstrate the companies’ focus “on getting the top athletes who have a chance to play for one of their colleges or in the pros in their shoes as early as possible,” said Jonathan Jensen, a sports marketing consultant and assistant professor in the Girard School of Business at Merrimack College.