Run, don't walk, in this audition

Under Armour's casting call for TV, magazine ads focuses on amateur female athletes

February 11, 2007|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

Kathy Sibiski of Bel Air has been approached several times by photographers interested in making a model out of her teenage daughter Allison.

Until yesterday, Sibiski had never countenanced the idea. She worried that the slim-crazy modeling industry promotes an unhealthy body image for young women.

"I didn't want her to become self-conscious," Sibiski said.

But that very same mother showed up with her daughter yesterday at an open casting call for Under Armour.

The Baltimore-based sports apparel maker is looking for amateur female athletes to represent the increasingly popular brand in television, magazine and in-store advertisements.

"I like that Under Armour encourages girls to play sports," Sibiski said. "They put forward a positive body image that not all girls are size 2 models."

More than 100 high school and college students went through a series of videotaped interviews and athletic drills at the Park School gym.

Under Armour will hold another open audition at the Brooklandville school at noon Saturday and scout other parts of the country, too. The goal: a "team" of 30 to 40 young women that will become the national face of the brand in a multimillion-dollar ad campaign.

The company doesn't use professional models or nonathlete celebrities in its campaigns because it wants to cultivate a sense of authenticity that will appeal to its core athlete consumers, marketing officials say.

"The approach is pure authenticity of sport, and what the female team-athlete looks like on the field and while training," said Steve Battista, Under Armour's vice president for brand marketing. "Trying to capture that is our goal."

Founded in 1996, the company anticipates a net revenue of more than $550 million this year, up from $430 million last year. Its women's clothing line, introduced in 2004, accounts for about 20 percent of sales, Battista said, but has potential for growth.

"Around the building, we've always said our women's business should be as big or bigger than our men's business one day," he said.

After filling out a questionnaire, posing for head shots and undergoing a short videotaped interview, each auditioner performed an on-court drill in her team sport of choice: lacrosse, field hockey, soccer or softball.

Allison Sibiski, who plays lacrosse and field hockey at Fallston High School, felt good about her decision to spotlight her field hockey chops rather than her skills in the more popular lacrosse.

"My chances are probably better because I haven't seen anybody else do field hockey," she said

For most of the athletes, it was their first modeling audition. "It's kind of awkward, smiling on command," said lacrosse player Allie Mangione, 17, adjusting her black Under Armour head band.

Though the Dulaney High School junior gave a poised on-camera interview -- maintaining eye contact with the judges, smiling often, fidgeting rarely--Mangione was well wide of the mark on a couple of easy passes during the drill portion of her audition.

"Oh my God, I messed up so much!" she laughed afterward, as she walked back to the gym bleachers -- where waiting girls peppered her with questions about what to expect from the judges.

Battista said 10 to 15 of the girls who auditioned yesterday will likely be called back in coming weeks for future interviews and screen tests.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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