Watch the stirring new Under Armour ad featuring Bryce Harper

Thomas is the voice of a new ad featuring Harper as the company launches a new line of signature cleats for the Washington Nationals star during today’s All-Star game.

“We looked at two things,” said Under Armour senior vice president for marketing Adrienne Lofton. “First, there’s the importance of being grounded in the fundamentals, of learning the right way as you grow up. Youth coaches are so important. Second, every sport you look at, it all comes down to footwork. That’s such a key to success.”

Under Armour plans to feature another unapologetically brash athlete, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, in the campaign later this year.

“We love and lean into Bryce’s personality,” Lofton said. “He wants to make baseball fun again. We’re about making sports fun again. He’s emotional. Sometimes there’s tension. We lean into and embrace that tension. It’s part of our brand.”

Under Armour has spent years building a stable of athletes in its attempt to gain ground on Nike — the gap is huge, with Nike aiming for $50 billion in yearly revenue by 2020 while Under Armour is striving for $7.5 billion by 2018 — and is now moving toward building product lines around them. The company hired Peter Ruppe, who helped craft Nike’s plan for weaving the popularity of Air Jordan shoes into an entire brand, last year to push footwear growth.

Focusing the early part of this campaign on cleats means Under Armour is playing to its strength in the category; it first got into the shoe business with cleats in 2006, and has fared well there. It struggles in the more lucrative categories of basketball and running.

“When you look at this, it’s really a play for the youth market, for establishing something with them early on,” said Matt Powell, an industry analyst with NPD. “Cleats are basically for children. Under Armour does well there and wants to hold that ground, but there’s just none of the sexy things you see with basketball and running.”

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