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Apparel company Under Armour makes deal with McKeesport

McKeesport Area football is undeniable in the eyes of the Under Armour brand.

Expanding its Undeniable program into Western Pennsylvania, the Under Armour brand has entered an exclusivity contract to outfit the McKeesport Area Tigers varsity football team.

The Class AAAA program will receive everything from uniforms and cleats to sideline apparel and summer workout gear for its players and coaches.

"They are providing us an opportunity to be an exclusive Under Armour varsity football school," McKeesport Area athletic director Charley Kiss said. "Anything visible will be Under Armour to promote their brand, and our district will benefit financially in that we are offsetting the cost of our football program."

Tigers coach Jim Ward said it's a win-win agreement for the brand and the district.

"This will save the district a lot of money, and we're getting some of the best apparel out there," Ward said. "It's great to be teamed up with such a quality apparel company."

Items are starting to come in with dual logos promoting the Under Armour brand along with the McKeesport Area program.

"We have a little in stock," Ward said. "There will be new arrivals in June, and we will start ordering in May. Then, everything will be Under Armour head to toe."

In nearly seven years of running the Undeniable program for high school football, Under Armour has reached out to approximately 65 programs across the United States.

"They are historically the best high school football programs in the nation," said Sean Sullivan, Under Armour's director of collegiate sports marketing and the Undeniable program.

In the fall, ESPN offers weekly rankings of top high school football teams across the nation. Many of those listings mirror Under Armour's Undeniable roster.

"Many are in these rankings," Sullivan said. "They are perennial state champions. They are programs rich in tradition."

McKeesport Area's football program is a staple in its community, and Sullivan said Under Armour wanted to share the Southwestern Pennsylvania feel for football.

"It's a market where they play great football," he said. "With all the great players coming out of Western Pennsylvania, we needed a partner out there. We needed some representation."

Under Armour products are available regionally through the Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods.

"It's great to make impressions in a market where you have a large partner such as Dick's," Sullivan said from a marketing perspective.

And while some regional schools wear Under Armour gear, McKeesport Area's contract is a more formal arrangement. Participation in the Undeniable program affords access to custom gear that is not available to standard customers.

"Sometimes that is a selling point to these programs, because they don't want to look like teams that they play," Sullivan said. "The uniform is a custom opportunity."

McKeesport's new uniforms, which will be revealed on the field for the 2012 season, will feature blue home gear with white lettering and red accents and white away gear with blue lettering and red accents.

McKeesport Area school director Mark Holtzman, a co-chair on the board's athletic committee, said the contract is special.

"This team has been selected for its hard work and determination," Holtzman said. "It's a great accomplishment for McKeesport, for the Mon Valley and for Pennsylvania."

Holtzman and Kiss thanked Ward and former coach George Smith for establishing a football program for which district communities can be proud.

McKeesport Area's selection to Under Armour's Undeniable roster is not to be confused with the Finding Undeniable contest in which schools applied to be considered Undeniable.

Under Armour is the leading developer of branded performance apparel, footwear and accessories. The brand was founded in 1996 by former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank, as he intended to make athletes perform better with innovative products.

For more information, go to www.UA.com.

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